This year, Christmas is going to be a bit different for us than it’s ever been. For one, this will be the first warm-weather Christmas we’ve ever had… and it will also be our first Christmas away from family. It’s been wonderful to think about our own traditions at home, but that also got us wondering about the Christmas traditions of other people and cultures—especially of the countries we’ve encountered and will encounter in the coming months.
We asked several friends from the various parts of the world to help us out, and now we want to share their traditions with you in a 12-part series we’re titling, “12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas”. Catchy, right?
Each day until December 25th we will be posting a different article about a country that’s near and dear to us, some which have some very unique and wonderful traditions you may never have known about otherwise. So keep tuned in, and without further ado, here’s our first installment, right from Emily’s mom and dad (who truly make Christmas the most wonderful time of year): The United States of America.
What is a typical Christmas in the US like?
Christmas these days in the US is very commercialized with tons of decorations at malls, shopping deals, and seems to be all about gift giving. For us, it’s different. Though Christmas these days is more than a religious holiday for people in the US, we try to focus attention on the birth of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and on our family.
Preparing for the arrival of family to share the holidays with is a several-week event. Lots of shopping, wrapping presents, preparing candies, cookies and treats. Time is fully spent thinking of others and what gifts could be given to bring a little Christmas joy. On Christmas Eve, we gather for our little family program that the children and grandchildren prepare each year to share their talents, and read/act out The Christmas (Nativity) Story.
For the final event of the evening, Santa Claus delivers gifts of “Christmas Jammies” [pajamas usually decorated with reindeer antlers or Santa hats, etc.] to each member of the family, and everyone puts them on before going to bed. On Christmas morning we awake to children “whispering” loudly, excited to see the gifts Santa brought and gifts given to each other.
What foods/meals are a part of the holiday season?
In our own family, on Christmas day we have a tradition of making a Christmas breakfast casserole and what we call “monkey rolls”: dinner rolls cooked in a sugary delicious syrup-like caramel or butterscotch sauce. Neither dish makes it past lunch most of the time. Ham and potatoes are our go-to Christmas dinner, and candies like fudge, caramels, divinity, pumpkin rolls and Christmas popcorn is found in plenty, and often made from scratch.
What songs/music do Americans listen to?
There’s all sorts of music that Americans listen to to bring in the feeling of festivities, and Christmas music is a genre all on its own. There’s nothing like the classics, though, and songs like “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “Angels We Have Heard On High” all set the mood quite well. I personally love the song ‘Mary Did You Know’, and just heard to the song by the piano guys with the video and was very touched.
What symbol represents Christmas best in the US?
Santa Claus, Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes, and the Nativity are all pretty common symbols of the holiday season, and even for some people it is the gifts under the tree. For us, however, it is the star of hope that sits on top of the tree that represents the spirit of Christmas best.