Christmas traditions

Christmas is a huge holiday in the United States. For many people, it’s the most important holiday of the year. (It’s much more important than Thanksgiving for most people who celebrate both.)

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However, not everyone celebrates Christmas. For many people, Christmas is a Christian religious holiday. People from other religions often have other winter holidays that they celebrate in November and December, including Yule, Diwali, Hanukkah, etc. Some people celebrate more than one holiday. Other people don’t celebrate any holidays. Some people celebrate in a non-religious way–many people follow Christmas traditions (Christmas trees, presents, etc.) but don’t consider themselves Christians. Because the United States is ethnically and religiously diverse, most people have friends, family, and co-workers who celebrate differently from themselves. That’s why many Americans who do celebrate Christmas feel it is more polite to sometimes say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” If you don’t know what holiday someone celebrates, it’s more considerate to say “Happy holidays” instead of assuming that the person celebrates Christmas. For the same reason, a lot of Americans (including me) send holiday cards that say “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or send different cards depending on the recipient.

There are regional differences in how Christmas is celebrated around the world. Different countries have very different traditions. In the USA, different areas sometimes have regional traditions based on where the local people’s ancestors come from. Different Christian groups also celebrate Christmas differently. Some groups, including Catholics, observe a four-week period called Advent, while most other Christian denominations don’t. Many Americans have backgrounds that include a variety of religions and ethnicities, so they may have a variety of different traditions. That’s true in my family. Our Christmas traditions include gelt, Christmas stockings, mistletoe, eggnog, Christmas crackers, holiday cards, and advent calendars. (You can look up all of these topics on Wikipedia, or just explore the many Christmas-related articles there.)

In countries where Christmas arrived more recently, such as Japan, other traditions have become popular. In Japan, it’s considered a good day for a romantic date, whereas in the USA it’s kept as a day for families and children. Fried chicken is popular for Christmas dinner in Japan, whereas Americans often prepare ham or beef at home, and British people often eat turkey, goose, or duck. Americans often have desserts such as pie or fruitcake (a spiced bread with dried fruit), while in Britain you can buy an iced fruitcake called a Christmas cake–but in Japan, a Christmas cake is a sponge cake that is beautifully iced and topped with fruit or Christmas decorations.

Anyway, I really enjoy Christmas because I like picking out presents for my friends and family, decorating the tree, seeing all of the lit-up houses in town, etc. This year, my husband and I flew to Arkansas to visit our families, so we’re doing lots of Christmas things with them. If we had stayed in California, we would have gone to our friend’s Yule party. What do you enjoy doing in December and January?

Whatever you do or don’t celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful month and a happy new year! Happy holidays!

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