hristmas is celebrated with enthusiasm throughout the world on 25th of December every year. It is interesting to note that the festival varies from nation to nation. In the European countries Christmas is a grand affair and is celebrated in a more traditional way unlike USA, where Christmas arrived much later and so did the festivities involving it. Many legends associated with Christmas which have their roots in ancient Scandinavia, Norway, Demark and some other old European nations, continue to exist as traditions. The deeds involving these legends were quite virtuous and were meant to send a message to the mankind in centuries to come. People preserved these folklores in the form of traditions, to ensure their practice and continuity. Many of these rituals or customs are not observed in USA, like the way they are in the countries mentioned above. Nevertheless, the basic traditions remain the same. For instance, the Christmas tree, singing carols and Santa Claus are prominent in the United States as well. Christmas is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country, owing to its cultural diversity. Read on to know about the origin of Christmas carousals in USA and the present day scenario.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
In the United States of America, Christmas showed its eminence only in the 19th century. The first signs of Christmas were in during the 1800's when it was observed by the Protestants Christians of Czech republic. Towards 1830, Christmas started to establish itself and in 1840, for the first time the Christmas tree was introduced. Santa Claus made his appearance two years later. The name Santa Claus has its derivation from the Dutch word, 'Sintaklass'. The first Santa known as St. Nicholas, was seen with a smoking pipe and flying in a wagon without reindeers, according to a book by Novelist Washington Irving. This was in 1809. By 1860, St. Nicholas was a well-known figure and was labeled as Santa Claus.
Christmas Traditions In USA
In USA, Christmas is more of family gathering, church visiting and gift-giving ceremony. The jubilations begin days or even a month before the advent of Christmas, when people make plans for Christmas Eve. Decorating the houses and gardens forms an important part of the festival. Christmas tree holds immense significance in all the parts of USA. People spend days decorating the Christmas tree. The tree's pinnacle is decorated with a star, symbolizing the star of Bethlehem, which declared the birth of Baby Jesus to the three Wise Men. Holly, mistletoe, lights and pictures or images of Santa and Jesus Christ go in the adornments of most the American households. Majority of Americans celebrate Christmas by attending family dinners or parties, exchanging gifts and singing Christmas carols. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a very popular Christmas Carol.
Thanksgiving Day is chiefly observed in United States and Canada. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in USA. It is considered as the official beginning of Christmas celebration all over the United States of America.
Celebrations In Different Parts Of USA
The Moravians in Pennsylvania have a unique and conventional manner of celebrating Christmas. They make a small landscape or village under the Christmas tree called "putz". The construction of nativity scenes or villages beneath the Christmas tree was a common sight in the early-colonial American Moravian communities.
In Alaska, a star (of Bethlehem) is put on a pole, which is taken from door to door. Some people enact as the men of Herod, who try to capture it. This concept is taken from the legend of the Wise Men or the Magi, who visited Christ on his birth by following the star. The Alaskans also decorate the entrances to their houses with pineapple, a symbol of cordiality. 'Gristuusaaq suu'uq', or 'Christ is born', is a famous Christmas carol in Alaska.
In Washington a vast Christmas tree is lit majestically by the President. The tree gets illuminated with lights the moment the President presses a button.
Carol singing is famous in Boston. The singers are usually seen singing carols with bells in their hands.
'Las Posadas', a famous Mexican ritual is celebrated on Christmas. It is a nine-day festival which ends on 24th December. Families visit each other's homes in search of Mary and Joseph (enacted by men and women).
In Hawaii, the Christmas celebrations are quite unique. It is a result of the early Europeans who settled in the South and used to send Christmas greetings to their distant neighbors by shooting fireworks. Santa in Hawaii arrives in a boat called a Christmas Tree Ship. The Christmas tree ship brings a load of Christmas fare accompanied by Santa.
The Christmas dinner comprises of roast turkey with vegetables and sauces. This is the traditional Christmas dinner and the dessert is a rich fruit pudding with brandy sauce and pumpkin pies. After the dinner, members of the family thank God for his grace and wish for a prosperous new year.
The United States of America is a multi-cultural country and almost each State has its own version of Christmas celebrations. Many of these traditions were adopted from countries like England, Australia, Germany and Netherlands. From England and Australia came Christmas carols, Germany introduced the Americans to the Christmas tree and from Netherlands they got to know about Santa Claus. Yet the celebrations seem unique in their own way. It is like a perfect blend of all.
Christmas celebrations in USA came much later. The article below gives an account of the Christmas customs and traditions in different parts of USA.