Nobody else in the world celebrates Christmas quite like the United States of America. But with
a massive population and influences from many different countries around the world, there is no
one quintessentially American way to celebrate. Instead, every individual family has their own
traditions that draw on many different influences to celebrate the season.
For many, the Christmas season begins after Thanksgiving Day in late November. Towns and
cities of every shape and size decorate with brightly coloured lights as well as a Christmas tree
placed in a prominent space, usually a town square. Perhaps the most famous Christmas
display is New York City’s Rockefeller Centre—where a huge Christmas tree and lights set the
backdrop for an outdoor ice skating rink. New York is also known for its festive holiday displays
in the windows of many major department stores.
Outside of the city, many small towns also deck the halls, with many of them looking like the
front of a postcard once a light dusting of snow happens. In Santa Claus, Indiana (yes, that’s the
name of the town!), a local post master started a tradition in the 1920s of encouraging children
to send their letters to Santa Clause (the person). Today, volunteers from Santa Claus, IN
answer thousands of letters written to Santa Claus, the person, each year.
The majority of celebrations happen in the USA on December 24 and 25. On Christmas Eve
many families and friends will gather for a meal. And before bed, children will traditionally leave
milk and cookies out as a snack for Santa who visits each house thanks to his trusty sleigh and
eight (or nine, depending on the weather) flying reindeer. He then comes down the chimney and
leaves presents underneath the tree. On Christmas morning, families gather together to open
presents and visit friends and family.
In many parts of the USA, especially in the Southwest, many people will leave ‘luminarias’ or
‘farolitos’ outside—paper sacks wills with sand with a candle inside. The candles are lit on
Christmas Eve and placed on the edges of paths to represent lighting the way to Mary and
Joseph can find somewhere to stay—a tradition that has been adopted from Mexico along with
eating traditional Mexican foods like tamales.
And not to forget New Year’s Eve, the United States is also home to some of the largest
celebrations in the world to ring in the new year. The celebrations in Time’s Square in New York
City are extremely popular and often feature live music, special guests, and of course the
infamous countdown to midnight when the ball drops to signify the beginning of a fresh calendar year.