Christms Traditions II
The second Christmas article is finally here, very late. To learn about the Christmas traditions in USA and Ireland we at Esset have brought you this summary!
The American Christmas season starts a bit later than in Sweden. The US celebrates Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, on the last Thursday of November. It is generally considered in bad taste to start decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but the day after the Christmas season comes roaring in the most American way, the giant day of shopping and door-dash deals has become a holiday of its own, Black Friday. However, the mad crowds stampeding through stores and wild fights for $40 X-boxes are generally a thing of the past nowadays as more and more deals are found online.
Following Thanksgiving, many Americans will decorate their houses with bright Christmas lights. They tend to be a lot brighter, flashier, and more colorful than the simple white lights seen in Sweden. Americans don’t necessarily have the same appreciation for tasteful simplicity as the Swedes do. Some neighborhoods even have competitions to see which household can have the most impressive lights. This leads to some houses being lit up so brightly can be seen from space.
December is full of Christmas festivities. Many towns will host a tree lighting as well as a menorah lighting. Winter Markets are becoming more and more popular, and some cities even set up free skating rinks in the markets. In the past, no Christmas was complete without an annual pilgrimage to your local mall Santa. Back in the hay-day of the American Mall, the 1980s and 90s, pretty much every mall would hire actors to dress up as Santa and his elves. Families would line up for photos, and for Santa to ask each child, “What do you want for Christmas”. The complicated explanations that parents had to give their children to explain why Santa Claus, a very important and busy man, was at a suburban mall in New Jersey tended to be quite creative. Sadly, mall Santas may soon be another victim of online shopping, with fewer malls participating in the pageantry.
And as the US has a large non-Christian population and a strict separation of church and state (in theory), most schools will put on a ‘Winter Concert’, essentially a Christmas concert without any overt references to Christmas or Jesus. Jingle-Bells and Frosty the Snowman and other festive non-denominational songs are sung to celebrate the winter spirit. However, some American Conservatives believe this constitutes a war on Christmas and will make a scene anytime someone says the politically current “Happy Holidays”, which is now the default seasonal greeting in much of the US. Despite what some say about the war on Christmas, Christmas is still going strong in the US. The Hallmark channel, a TV channel, owned and run by a greeting card company will play 24/7 low-quality Christmas that usually involves an overworked business executive moving coming to her hometown to learn the true meaning of Christmas and mean a hunky lumberjack. This year alone Hallmark, again a greeting card company, has produced no less than 40 Christmas movies. These cheesy, predictable movies are truly perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit. Every store you go into will be playing Christmas music and many TV shows will have a Christmas special. There is more than enough Christmas, in my opinion.
The actual celebration of Christmas varies a lot in the US based on people’s family backgrounds. Many Italian Americans celebrate Christmas on the 24th with the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a tradition that was brought to the US from Sicily in the 1800s and is now more popular in the US than in Italy. Pork and Rice are more common than Turkey and Mashed potatoes in Hawaii. And Irish Americans may celebrate St. Stephen’s day on the 26th. Even non-Christians in the US have their own Christmas traditions; for example, many Jewish Americans will get Chinese food and go to the movie theater on Christmas. After the excitement of the Christmas season, it is nice to come together with your family and appreciate the important things in life.