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Can anyone tell me about an American (USA) Christmas

(41 Posts)
paddlingwhenIshouldbeworking Sun 22-Oct-17 14:27:45

Inspired by the British thread but I'm intrigued by American Christmases. They seem such over the top celebrations in films and TV but then I hear it's only a one day holiday (no Boxing Day) and the British thread referred to it being 'more casual'. Am having trouble reconciling this with the films. They don't have crackers or mince pies or pantos..what do they have instead? (other than eggnog and shopping!) Do they eat another turkey dinner after Thanksgiving, or something else?

Any Americans on here or anyone joined family for a Christmas over there?

OlennasWimple Sun 22-Oct-17 14:31:54

Lots of holiday decorations that go up in November and stay up well into January, maybe even February - no 12th Night superstitions! shock

Church service for those that way inclined

Presents and time with family, but not necessarily the whole extended family (that's more of a Thanksgiving thing)

paddlingwhenIshouldbeworking Sun 22-Oct-17 15:12:01

Ooh thank you. Do they have that really slow sluggish time between Christmas & New Year. In our family lots of us are able to take time the time off and it ends up a 8-9 day holiday. I know that's lucky (no health workers at the moment) rather than a cultural norm but do things slow down in the same way?

I have many more important things to think about today but I'm hungover and wrapped in a blanket by the fire doing procrastinating.

BriechonCheese Sun 22-Oct-17 15:18:20

I had a Christmas in Utah and one in upstate New York. The emphasis in both families seemed to be on getting really excited about Christmas Eve and then come Christmas Day they just open their presents (Utah family went to church) and then sat around a bit. We had beef pot roast at one house and at the other lasagna.
Nothing very traditional based whatsoever.
I found it a wash out.

picklemepopcorn Sun 22-Oct-17 15:33:25

BiLs family have a big meal on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas Day they trail around 'calling' on neighbours and families. That's a bit southern, I think.

OrangeJulius Sun 22-Oct-17 15:35:36

I'm not sure films are a good reference point as everything in the film will be over the top (look at labour and birth in films!). I've had many Christmases in Canada, the US, and now Britain and I don't find the holiday to be massively different across the three. Immediate family and maybe some extended get together, eat lots of goodies, open presents, eat a massive meal, get a bit drunk, and spend the next few days eating leftovers. Each family has some of their own traditions, like what meat they like to eat. There is a Christmas tree, Christmas cards, and decorations. Some people have to go back to work sooner than others.

BarbaraOcumbungles Sun 22-Oct-17 15:41:49

Surely it’s just like in Home Alone?

Cavender Sun 22-Oct-17 15:54:25

We’re British living in the USA (Texas). Most people here appear to have ham for Christmas dinner with apple or pecan pie for desert.

You can buy crackers here easily enough but my American friends don’t seem to use them.

No mince pies, Christmas pudding or Christmas cake.

Christmas trees and decorations are fine in a big way. It’s quite odd seeing huge Christmas trees in our local town square in 30 degrees sunshine. grin they do set up a ice rink though (indoors in case it’s too warm outside)

Our local church does their nativity play on Christmas Eve rather than a Christingle Service as in the UK and they don’t have a Carol Service. sad

They do holiday cards with pictures of their family on the front rather than what we think of as Christmas cards.

There aren’t pantos but they do have Christmas shoes and theatre productions eg a Christ Carrol or the Nutcracker.

New Year is rather a damp squib.

ownedbySWD Sun 22-Oct-17 15:56:40

Christmas is nicer here in the UK ime. smile

IHaveBrilloHair Sun 22-Oct-17 16:04:09

They don't have Christmas TV the way we do, no specials or first view films and things.

Cavender Sun 22-Oct-17 16:13:50

“Christ Carroll” goodness me autocorrect! Christmas Carol.

Piccolino2 Sun 22-Oct-17 16:17:21

I grew up with an American father and British Mother and Christmases as children and adults in both places (California) with both families.

The differences I’ve seen are, lots of people seem to do their big dinner on Christmas Eve but my family didn’t. There would be turkey, delicious honey baked ham, mashed potato, dinner rolls and gello salads (which are really really weird if you didn’t grow up eating them). Dessert is typically pecan and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving I think affects the way they celebrate Christmas and lots of my family decorate quite close to Christmas and take it all down very quickly after, some the day after Christmas. Boxing Day feels like any other day and lots of people go back to work because they don’t get a lot of holidays.

They do tons of decorations, huge decorations, I find the shops really get going after thanksgiving so later than here. Baking cookies is huge and my family always had tons. Also sweet pies. Years ago where my parents lived there were more outside decorations on houses but still many more than we have here.

This all may be particular to my family however.

Vitalogy Sun 22-Oct-17 16:35:09

I was over there one Christmas. Gallons of fresh eggnog in the shops. Yum, I wish we could get it fresh in the UK. I keep on meaning to make my own.
Here's a recipe I might try:

recipes.sainsburys.co.uk/recipes/sides/martell-eggnog

OlennasWimple Sun 22-Oct-17 16:36:28

Schools are closed between Christmas and NY, but they might go right up to 23/24 December for the end of term (depending on how the days fall) and back again on Jan 2/3.

NY Day is more of a thing than NYE - parades in big cities, for example. I wonder whether that is a consequence of having a country with multiple time zones?

SenecaFalls Sun 22-Oct-17 16:47:49

I think Christmas is less pervasive in the US than in the UK.
Thanksgiving is a big family holiday and the emphasis is on the food, and many, probably most, people wait until after Thanksgiving to start decorating and thinking about Christmas. Lots of people, us included, have a fairly low key Christmas, especially after their children are grown. There are also a lot of cultural differences, which often come from national origin. in the way people celebrate Christmas and the New Year, e.g. Italian Americans have seafood; Scottish-Americans (like us) have Hogmanay parties.

wtftodo Mon 23-Oct-17 09:12:30

Thanksgiving is the big deal over there in terms of family, holiday, traditions etc and I suspect often "christmas" in movies is used in place of thanksgiving because it will translate internationally

We have family in Massachusetts and when we've been for Christmas they make a big deal for our benefit really, but:
- everyone gets 1day holiday and might try to take an extra day because we are visiting
- the dinner was on Christmas Eve - shrimp etc and then a big rib roast followed by (squiffy) presents opening
- Christmas Day was like a more hungover Boxing Day. I cried the first year! It felt like such an anti climax and so different from home
Now two of the families including us have kids and the mother in the usa is British so everything's a bit more Brit style when we visit

We suggested secret Santa for the adults one year and it became "Yankee swap", a corruption that blew my mind in its outrageous flouting of the British traditions of smiling politely and thanking profusely

Oh and a (v pricy) tradition they have is going to see the nutcracker ballet in the run up to Christmas

I think that happens here, too, mind

eeanne Mon 23-Oct-17 09:16:44

I grew up in the US then lived in the UK for many years. Christmas is better in the UK - no question!

As pointed out in the US it's just one day, no Boxing Day. The focus is presents and church if religious. Thanksgiving is the food holiday.

I'm not living in either country now but the dream would be Thanksgiving in the US and Christmas in Britain grin

IroningMountain Mon 23-Oct-17 09:20:02

I cried when experiencing a US Christmas too,just felt like any other day.😀

TitusAndromedon Mon 23-Oct-17 09:26:33

I think there are loads of regional differences in how Christmas is celebrated in the US. I’m American, and my family always made a big deal of it. We often had something other than turkey because of having it a month earlier at Thanksgiving, so we would often have prime rib or a baked ham. That would be along with mash, lots of veg, homemade bread rolls, stuffing, cranberry mousse, various salads, yams, etc. We would also have a few desserts to choose from. On Christmas Eve we would do lots of preparation and then have something like crab or a big stew or similar. My mom always gave me a new pair of Christmas pyjamas and we would read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas before leaving milk and cookies for Santa. Christmas breakfast was also a big deal - caramel pecan rolls, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. We opened presents in the morning and then usually had family friends over for dinner in the afternoon because we didn’t have any family nearby. After dinner we would watch films or play games. Other family traditions included cutting down our own Christmas tree, going to see Santa, and sometimes seeing performances of carols or similar. Lots of parties as well. Thanksgiving was always a more laid-back holiday for us - all the nice food without the stress of gifts and decorations and whatnot. I loved Christmas when I was growing up, though. I loved my family’s traditions and felt like it was a really special time.

Saying that, because America is more multicultural there are a few more things open. You can go to the cinema and most supermarkets are open for a few hours. It was a shock the first time I spent Christmas over here and realised that, without making a booking, I’d struggle to find someplace to eat!

IheartNiles Mon 23-Oct-17 09:30:50

This has shattered my illusions. The films make it look like a month long celebration! One lousy day!!??

sandgrown Mon 23-Oct-17 09:34:29

Titus your Christmas sounds lovely. Traditional with American touches smile

acornsandnuts Mon 23-Oct-17 09:35:00

There’s no Christmas music 😞 no Slade or Shaking Stevens, no Pogues or even Maria ‘tis sad.

IheartNiles Mon 23-Oct-17 09:36:37

Really acorns? Why do the Americans make such a deal of Xmas in films?

Blowitout Mon 23-Oct-17 09:37:16

Cinemas are open on Christmas Day and they usually show a new release and are packed out.

TitusAndromedon Mon 23-Oct-17 10:10:49

Of course there is Christmas music, Acorns! Where do you think Mariah Carey is from? Some stations play Christmas music for the whole of December! I used to love listening to Jonny Mathis, Garth Brooks and Phil Spector’s Christmas albums. There are crossover songs as well, although I will admit the Pogues don’t seem to feature.

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