Christmas in America
The United States has such a diversity of cultures and traditions, it is actually quite difficult to say what is uniquely American. Many of the Christmas holiday activities vary from family to family and often depend on the cultural heritage of the family members.
A typical Christmas celebration in America mix Irish, Austrian, Polish and Belgian traditions into something that is its own.
Notwithstanding the variety of cultures and nationalities, there is an 'ideal' Christmas tradition which seems to be accepted by many is that Christmas is a family time with a great deal of travel happening over the holidays. The differing climates of the United States also have an influence on what happens at Christmas time. For some places the idea of a Christmas with a sparkling blanket of snow is perfect, for some planning to spend the day at the beach is ideal while some look forward to warm temperatures and lots of sunshine.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree plays an important part in the holiday tradition. Often times it is topped by a star to represent the Star of Bethlehem, or by an angel which announces the birth of Christ. Many family trees have ornaments from more than one generation. Often times the heritage of the families are represented by the kind of decorations on the trees. Lights are a must and the more the better. The tree is often placed so that it can be viewed by passers-by in the street. Many living or family rooms are on the street-side in American homes.
Many families also decorate outside of the home with regional traditions and according to the weather. Some form of lighting are often used on the homes and in the yards during the holidays. There are snowmen, Santas, manger scenes, snowflakes, reindeer, and other lighted displays in many neighborhoods. Others outline the architectural features of their homes in lights. There is sometimes a creche placed that represents the stable wherein the Christ child was born and has Mary, Joseph, the Child and various animals in attendance.
Food plays an important part in the American Christmas. It is often a time of an extended open house with friends dropping by to bring gifts or just to wish everyone a happy holiday. At this time it is appropriate to offer these guests food and beverage, so many homes have a variety of treats prepared in advance for these occasions. Although many families serve a variety of menus for Christmas dinner, the standard fare seems to include turkey, dressing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetables, a salad and some sort of dessert.
Various churches play an important part in the American Christmas. Many families feel that it is important to go to church on Christmas. There are also a variety of associated activities such as church dinners, live Nativity scenes, choir concerts, special church services, and a fostering of the spirit of giving to those less fortunate.
Christmas Celebration in Other Countries