Christmas Traditions in America. America is a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. Christmas traditions vary by regions of the country. Based on the nationalities that have settled in these regions. Regardless, of the national region we all believe in family, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Giving and Love at Christmas Time.
Santa Claus originated in the United States in the 1860s. Given the Dutch name, St Nicholas (Sintaklaas). The Dutch brought St. Nicholas to America in the 17th century. He did not gain importance until Washington Irving wrote, “The Father of Santa Claus.” Old Santa Claus did have a red suit, smoke a pipe, lived in the North Pole and flies around in a wagon with no reindeers. Of course, he did bring children gifts. In 1863 St. Nicholas was given the name Santa Claus his old wagon was traded for a sleigh with reindeers.
Christmas Traditions In America
Appalachian Mountain gave us one of our most popular Christmas songs, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This song was originally a country song.
In Alaska, children carol with long poles. The poles are topped with colored stars. Treats include cookies, doughnuts, cakes, fish (piruk) and smoked salmon.
In Arizona, Las Posadas a Mexican ritual is practiced. Ritual play procession travels searching for an inn for Mary and Joseph. Families play the characters and visit each other homes re-enacting the drama.
In Boston, Christmas time is known for its carol singing festivities. Carolers are accompanied by handbells.
In California, some believe Santa comes on a surfboard while most believe Santa arrives by sleigh.
In Hawaii, Santa Claus arrives by boat, the Christmas Tree Ship. This ship brings presents. Christmas dinner is eaten outside.
Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration honoring African-American culture. Kwanzaa first celebrated in 1966. Celebrations include singing, drum-beating, and reading.
In New Orleans, a large ox is decorated with holly and ribbon tied to its horn. This ceremonious ox is paraded around the city.
In Pennsylvania, Germans are given gifts by Belsnickle. Belsnickle will tap his switch if the recipients have misbehaved. The Moravian population celebrates Christmas with a “Love-Fest.” Musical services partake with hymns and anthems.
Philadelphia has the Mummers Parade. The parade runs all day with bands, dancers and people in their Christmas best.
Polish Americans on Christmas Eve spread hay on the kitchen floor and under the tablecloth. A symbol of a stable and manger. When Christmas dinner is set an extra place is set for Mary and the Christ Child. Early settlers settled along the eastern coast of the United States.
In the South, these settlers greeted neighbors by shooting firearms and fireworks.
In Washington D.C. a huge Christmas tree is placed on White House lawn. For decades the tree is ceremoniously lit by the President of the United States.
Holly Holly has shiny leaves and bears fruit in the winter. In ancient times holly was thought to have magical powers. The Romans brought holly to England. In medieval times holly and ivy were the subjects of many Christmas songs. At Christmas, homes are decorated with holly
Ivy In pagan times was associated with Bacchus, the god of wine. Ivy played a big part in festivals then and today.
Mistletoe Druids and Romans considered mistletoe magical. Mistletoe grows without roots. Britons hung mistletoe in doorways to keep evil away. Those that entered home safely got a welcome kiss. In England and the United States, loving couples kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas.
Christmas Traditions in America
Have a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!