It is not easy to sum up the Christmas traditions in USA because of the multicultural nature of the country. Christmas in USA is actually a melting pot of numerous cultures, since the population of the country consists of migrants from all the continents.
So it is a very interesting season in USA. Christmas in USA starts as early as November, when they celebrate the Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November. The following Saturday is marked by a colorful and spectacular parade in New York City. The protagonist of the event is Santa Clause himself. He arrives as a herald to the Christmas celebrations.
From then on, the commercial centers are flooded with Christmas decorations, food items and gift articles. As years go by, like everywhere else in the world, Christmas in USA is also becoming highly commercialized.
Another important feature of the Christmas in USA is that it coincides with two other important festivals of two other cultures – Hanukah of the Jews and Kwanza of the Afro-Americans. So this season brims over with merriment, feasting and gift exchange.
However, Christmas Eve is an important day for all Christians in USA. There will be special services conducted in all the churches. After the evening service it is time for the adult members of the house to get together to enjoy their very special eggnog. This is a drink in which cream, milk sugar beaten egg and brandy/ rum are blended together. The children get to listen to the ‘The Night before Christmas’ before going to bed.
In the morning of the Christmas Day children open their gifts at the foot of the Christmas tree. Besides, they also would have hung their stockings over the fireplace to receive Santa’s presents. This is a happy occasion for the young and the old alike.
Christmas Day is an intimate family affair. The members from all over the country are invited to take part in the fabulous family dinner. It is customary to bring gifts for the hosting family.
The traditional Christmas fare includes roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and many other delicacies. A variety of desserts are used. Mince pie, pumpkin pie, plum pudding and fruit cake are some of them.
Christmas is a season of light and color. People decorate their houses with myriads of tiny multicolored bulbs. The streets and shopping malls are also decorated exuberantly to welcome the Divine Birth. People in South West part of USA mark the path to their doors with luminaries. These are paper lanterns which are illuminated by lit candles inside them.
The most important and famous street illumination occurs in the Rockefeller Center. An enormous Christmas tree is the main feature of the event. A spacious ice-skating rink is constructed for the public. This exists throughout Christmas and New Year.
In USA it is a custom to send Christmas cards to friends and relatives wishing them happiness and luck throughout the season and the following year. The commercialization in this field has produced very expensive and imaginative creations.
An evergreen tree is used as the Christmas tree and this is decorated with all sorts of decorations – lights, tinsel, and glass globes. In some cultures they string popcorns together to adorn the Christmas tree. Children find their gifts heaped at the foot of the Christmas tree.
It is customary to sing Christmas songs during the Christmas season. Children go about singing carols. This is actually a reenactment of the shepherds going about spreading the news of the Divine Birth. Family members also get together to sing carols at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This is basically an English custom.
Christmas is a season for charity work in USA. It is the time to think about the less fortunate and the destitute. So churches and Sunday schools conduct many events to generate money for the purpose. Concerts, nativity displays, Christmas plays and songs are organized at different venues.
Christmas in USA incorporates innumerable traditions. It is a time for relaxation and enjoyment.
by Marina Chernyak