Christmas In the United States
America is such a large country that there are a variety of different customs and
traditions within it. Decorations and celebrations are strongly British oriented, and
other communities have settled in America and kept their own festivals as well.
Father Christmas became Santa Claus in America and he now has two homes there.
There is Torrington, Connecticut, a Christmas village where Santa and his elves give
out presents. In Wilmington, New York, on the side of Whiteface Mountain, a man
called Arto Monaco designed a permanent home for Santa Claus. It has a
blacksmith (for the reindeer), a chapel, and a post office. 100,000 people visit the
village every year.
There is also a town called Santa Claus, in America. All the letters which are posted
in America addressed to Santa go there to be dealt with, an average of three million
a year. A twenty-three foot colored statue stands in Santa’s honor.
In 1924, the first national living Christmas tree was planted in Washington, D. C.
Every year since, the President of the United States ceremonially turns on the lights.
In the South, the custom has been to celebrate noisily with fireworks and the
shooting of firearms. Early settlers had sent greetings to their distant neighbors in
this way. It was thought to also frighten off evil spirits and spread to Hawaii and
In Alaska ‘going round with star’ is a feature of the season. Boys and girls with
lanterns on poles carry a large figure of a star, covered with bright colored paper,
from door to door. They sing carols and are welcomed in for refreshments. On the
next night another party of boys and girls, dressed as Herod’s men, try to destroy the
In New Mexico, semi-nomadic Navajo have a ‘big feed’ at ‘Kismus’ given by friends
of the native American people. Meat, beans, potatoes and onions are boiled in huge
iron pots over campfires. Coffee with donuts, bread and buns complete the menu. In
other parts of New Mexico, luminaires are placed along the streets and on flat roof
tops. These candles in paper bags filled with sand, ‘light the way for the Christ
Polish Americans keep up their homeland customs. They spread hay on the floor
and under the tablecloth to remind them of an inn or the stable and manger. No
meat is eaten until Christmas Day.
In the evening when the first star appears, the traditional Polish Wigilia feast is set upon the table. Beetroot soup, various fish, cabbage, mushrooms and sweetmeats (not meat, but a confection made from honey and poppy seeds) are features of the meal. An oblong wafer called an oplatek is given out by the head of the house. It has the Nativity scene imprinted on it. As the family and guests recall the birth of Jesus and wish each other a happiness in the coming year, they break off a piece of the oplatek. An extra place is set at the table in case Mary and the Christ child should come by seeking shelter.
Hungarian Americans place greater emphasis on church services and carol-singing
on Christmas Eve and Day than many fellow Americans. They gather around their
tree on Christmas Eve and presents are handed out at the appearance of the first star
of the evening. After the presents, seasonal foods are baked, rolls of walnut and
poppy seed, dumplings with honey and poppy seed, and biscuits with caraway,
sesame, or aniseed.