American Christmas Traditions

American Christmas Traditions

How to have an American Christmas

Most popular holiday traditions 

‘Tis the season to be jolly! The American culture is rooted in strong traditions around the holidays. If you have immigrated to the United States or are intrigued by the American culture and would like to try having a more americanized Christmas this year, here are some of our top holiday traditions for you to try. You and your family are sure to love them! While there are many other holiday traditions that exist in the United States, we have compiled a list of the ones that we felt were the most common and well-known traditions.

American Christmas Traditions

Get a Christmas Tree

While many people opt for an artificial tree, it is very common in the United States for families to get a real tree. Traditionally, families will go to a Christmas tree farm, select a tree, and cut it down themselves. Once home, everyone will help decorate the tree. We recommend putting on a Christmas movie or Christmas music and making some hot chocolate while decorating.

Pros: Real trees make the house smell nice.

Cons: Since they are real plants, they require watering if you want your tree to last you until Christmas. The pine needles also shed so keep your broom handy!

Decorate your house for Christmas

People in the United States take their Christmas decorating very seriously. There are even contests for who has the best house. Some people even open up their home to the public for tours! Some popular decorations are nativity scenes, Christmas villages, tinsel, light projectors on the outside of the house, inflatables, and lots and lots of Christmas lights!

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Play the Elf on the Shelf

Have young kids? They’ll love the elf on the shelf! The tradition is that each night, if the kids were well-behaved that day, the elf “magically” moves to another spot around the house. If the children were not well-behaved, the elf stays in the same location. It’s a good incentive for your children to be on their best behavior around the holidays. Lots of parents have fun getting creative with different spots to place the elf. The elf on the shelf industry is booming! There are both girl and boy elves with either lighter or darker skin, and elf pets, as well as various outfits and accessories that can be purchased for your elf. 

Make a Gingerbread House

Around the holidays, the grocery stores sell gingerbread house kits complete with everything you need to build and decorate your house. This activity is fun for the whole family. Use your finished masterpiece as a decoration or eat it or both!

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Go Christmas Caroling

Enjoy singing and being a blessing to others? Many groups go caroling  at nursing homes and throughout the community around Christmas. Check with churches or on Meetup. If you prefer to observe, you may find carolers at different holiday events such as a town’s tree lighting event. You can always organize your own group as well and walk around your neighborhood spreading cheer!

Get an Advent Calendar

There are many different forms of advent calendars. Regardless of the format of your advent calendar, the idea is to count down to Christmas. During the 25 days leading up to Christmas (beginning December 1st), there is something special each day. You can fill each day with your own little surprise or buy a pre-made one.

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Watch Christmas Movies

Nothing quite gets you into the Christmas spirit like a good Christmas movie.. and there are tons of them! Hallmark is famous for their Christmas movies. The movies are always set in the most perfect wintery place with perfect people, and always have a happy ending. They are feel good movies that are great for the whole family. Streaming services like Netflix have a wide selection as well. Check out our post on Christmas movies in English and Portuguese

Write a letter to Santa

If your little ones believe in Santa, have them write a letter to Santa asking for what they want for Christmas. You can mail the letter or keep them as a memory for when they grow up. It’s a great way to get gift ideas!

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Bake Christmas Cookies

Many Americans go crazy for Christmas cookies. The whole family will often get together to bake cookies. Some people make more than 20 varieties of cookies! What do they do with all those cookies? Share them! People will give out cookies to friends, family, their hair dresser, their doctor, and anyone else who they appreciate in their life. Many people will also participate in a cookie swap where they will trade cookies with others. 

Leave Milk and Cookies for Santa

Another thing to do with all those cookies you make? On Christmas Eve, it is tradition to leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. When Santa comes to leave the presents, he eats the cookies and drinks the milk. Keep alive the magic of Christmas!

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Hang the Mistletoe

It is tradition to hang some mistletoe in a doorway. When two people find themselves beneath the mistletoe, they kiss. How romantic!

Get Matching Family Pajamas

Want to get that perfect Instagram-worthy family photo on Christmas morning? Well, what is cuter than a whole family dressed in matching holiday jammies? Even the family dog can join in! Many stores sell a variety of matching holiday pajamas. Target always has a lovely and affordable selection. 

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Hang the Stockings 

Traditionally, each family member gets their own stocking, and the stockings are hung on the mantle above the fireplace. On Christmas morning, the stockings are full of small gifts, called stocking stuffers. These small items are often inexpensive and practical, such as candy, small toys, toiletries, and other small, practical items. 

Attend a Candlelight Service

On Christmas Eve, most churches have a special candlelight service. Some do it at midnight, while others offer several times on Christmas Eve or even the day before Christmas Eve. The service typically includes Christmas songs, a Christmas themed message, and at the end, everyone gets a candle and sings a song together. It is a beautiful experience. 

American Christmas Traditions
American Christmas Traditions

Read “The Night Before Christmas”

This is the most classic Christmas book on the market! It is actually a long poem written in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore. Its actual name is “A Visit from St. Nicholas” although nowadays it is more commonly referred to as “The Night Before Christmas.”

The poem starts off, “Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

Just like the title suggests, the story is about Santa making his visit on Christmas Eve. 

Send Christmas Cards

Our last American Christmas tradition is the practice of sending cards to friends and family. Around the holidays, cards start pouring in from everyone you know wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Many families do photo cards with images of their family on it, while others opt for a traditional holiday themed card. Cards received typically get proudly displayed in the house. Common areas include around a door or on a mantle, shelf, bookcase, or any other available area. 

American Christmas Traditions

Do you know of any other American Christmas traditions? What holiday traditions do you have in your country? Let us know in the comments!

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