In America, Christmas is a big deal. First originating as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the holiday is now celebrated by 9 out of 10 Americans each year.
In America, Christmas is a big deal. First originating as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the holiday is now celebrated by 9 out of 10 Americans each year, making it one of the most popular national holidays. Although Christmas Day is on December 25th, the entire month of December is a period filled with festive traditions and cozy activities in anticipation of the holiday. Here are a few key things that make Christmas so special in America, so that you can also celebrate the holiday while studying abroad:
Decorations Everywhere You Go
During the Christmas season, many Americans adorn their houses with beautiful decorations. The standard is an evergreen tree placed in the living room, decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments. But some choose to go all out, decorating the outside of their homes with wreaths and twinkling lights.
In many American cities, breathtaking Christmas displays are erected in public for all to enjoy. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City, for example, is one of the most popular trees in the nation. Every year, the lighting of this tree is broadcasted live and viewed by millions across the country.
It's the Season of Giving (and Shopping)
As is traditional in many countries, Americans celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to their loved ones. Presents are placed underneath the Christmas tree, and smaller treats for children are placed inside stockings which are hung in front of the fireplace. Groups of friends or coworkers often participate in gift exchanges by drawing names at random and giving a present to whomever they chose.
With the abundance of gift giving, it comes as no surprise that Christmas time is the busiest shopping season of the year. Stores entice shoppers by offering special sales on toys and electronics, blaring festive music from their speakers, and expanding their selection of products to include limited-time-only holiday items. Some stores even begin setting up their Christmas departments as early as October!
Sweet Treats Galore
Favorite Christmas foods vary widely, and most households have their own go-to dishes that are served at their holiday dinners. But across the board, sweets are a must. In many households, baking cookies is a fun activity enjoyed by adults and children alike. Sugar cookie dough is cut into shapes, baked, and decorated with frosting and sprinkles. Gingerbread men are also baked and decorated with icing and candy. To wash it all down, the most iconic Christmas beverage is eggnog, which is a rich dairy-based drink made with milk, cream, sugar, and eggs.
But the most popular sweet treat around Christmastime is the candy cane. Shaped like a shepherd’s crook, this hard candy traditionally has a peppermint flavor, and is often put in children’s stockings as a gift.
Visits from Santa Claus
Always sporting his signature red suit and hat, Santa Claus is a major figure in Christmas festivities. Legend has it that his team of flying reindeer pulls his sleigh full of gifts around the world as he delivers them to children on the night before Christmas Day, known as Christmas Eve. As the story goes, Santa squeezes down each house’s chimney and leaves presents under the tree. Traditionally, children set out Christmas cookies and milk near the tree in case Santa gets hungry! Parents in America teach their children about Santa Claus and tell them that he’ll only bring them gifts if they behave throughout the year. Actors dressed as Santa Claus can often be found at shopping malls, and eager children line up to sit on their lap and inform them which gifts they want for Christmas.
These are just a few of the many terrific traditions you may encounter during Christmas time in America. With all the spectacular scenery, tasty treats, and fun folklore, it’s easy to see why many here fondly call it “the most wonderful time of the year!”