History of Christmas in America: You can already be familiar with the Christian holiday, Christmas – you may even have celebrated this party in your native country. But celebrating Christmas in the United States may be a big surprise for you.
Nine out of ten Americans (92%) and almost all Christians (96%) say they celebrate Christmas, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And in the United States, Christmas is not only celebrated on December 25. It’s a whole season, starting with the day after Grace Day until Christmas. There are some that extend this season from November 1 to January 2.
In this article, we will give you a summary of the Christmas season in the United States. We will give you a little History of Christmas in America, and we will prepare you for the American holiday, Grace Day, we will share with you the story of the “official” start of the shopping season that is Christmas, this day is also known as Black Friday.
Hopefully, at the end of this blog, you will have a better knowledge about this Christmas season in the United States, and also some ideas on how to start your own Christmas traditions in your new country.
History of Christmas in America
The Pew Research Center estimates that two billion people celebrate Christmas in more than 160 countries around the world. That’s quite a Christmas spirit that happens every year, and each country has its unique way of celebrating Christmas that has changed over time.
This season has a lot of cultural significance for many people in the United States. Many non-Christian holidays are also celebrated during the same time as Christmas, such as the Kwanzaa festival of African-Americans and the Hanukkah festival of the Jews, which combined create a huge season of celebration.
The huge range of Christmas traditions in the United States are also attributed to our multicultural nature – many customs are similar to the Christmas traditions of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Mexico, the Netherlands, and more. The Americans mix religious customs with the traditions of their own family when they celebrate Christmas.
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These traditions incorporate food, decorations, events and even some rituals that are passed down from generation to generation. For many Americans, the holiday season is also an occasion to give to others with charities or volunteer work.
Entertainment of the season is another great part of the tradition for many American families. From plays at school to ballets, Christmas movie marathons, and a lot of Christmas song, there’s always an event going on that is focused on the Christmas party.
Many families like to give Christmas cards to their friends and family, while others prefer decorations and pastries. The season usually brings the spirit of happiness and a reason to create new memories with friends and family. It is so easy to get caught up in the celebration, and the Christmas spirit is very hard to avoid, especially in Oklahoma.
For more interesting facts about the American Christmas experience, you can read the Pew Research article: Five Facts about Christmas in the United States.
Even though Christmas is a religious holiday, it is celebrated by many in the United States – some consider Christmas to be more a cultural celebration than a religious one. This can be seen in the American version of Santa Claus.
Have you heard of our Santa Claus? You know, the fat man, happy with a big white beard, and a red suit with white, who has a sled and a workshop where the goblins work?
A Brief History of Christmas in America Santa Claus
The first image of the happy version of San Nicholas is from December 6, 1810, when John Pintard ordered the artist Alexander Anderson to create the first American image of San Nicholas for the occasion.
San Nicholas is shown as someone who gives gifts, bringing surprises through the fireplace and leaving them in the stockings next to the fireplace.
A book of 1821 made the first mention of Santa Claus and his magical sleigh with reindeer flying. This book is also the first to show that Santa Claus arrived on December 24th. A famous poet of 1823, he wrote and promoted the happy image of Santa Claus with his poem, “It was Christmas Eve.”
In 1931, Coca-Cola incorporated the image of Santa Claus in his advertisements and warnings for his popular refreshment. This brought fame to Santa Claus and established him as a commercial icon. The photo of the Coca-Cola Santa was so popular and continues to be popular today, that it has begun to threaten the religious image of St. Nicholas in European countries.
And what about the Day of Grace?
Let’s start when the Christmas season really begins. At the end of November is when the American Day of Grace party is celebrated. Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month of November, Día de Gracia is focused on sharing a meal with your family to celebrate the things for which you give thanks this year.
Normally a turkey is the main dish in this traditional holiday of Grace Day. The accompanying dishes may vary, but usually, it is a combination of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and a variety of desserts and pies. Each family creates its own menu and changes them to their tastes.
The day of Grace pays homage to the first large group of settlers who came to the United States, the pilgrims. In 1621, they had a big party where they celebrated the successful harvest they had during hard years.
The pilgrims invited local tribes of Native Americans to thank them for their contributions to the survival of the pilgrims – the Native Americans had taught the pilgrims how to plant, hunt and fish in their new land.
In 1939, the Day of Grace officially became an American party when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a national holiday.
In the United States, the Day of Grace is one of the most celebrated holidays for a majority of Americans, regardless of their religion. The Day of Grace has its own traditions such as food, decorations, football, and good company.
And of course, one can not celebrate the Day of Grace without seeing the parade of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the largest parades in the world and is presented by an American department store company. It is an annual event that began in 1924 and continues at home in New York City on Grace Day. It has been televised on NBC since 1952. The three-hour event features floats, costumes and huge balloons in the form of cartoons, including Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat. Santa and his sleigh form part of the end of the parade.
The Black Friday Chaos
Because the Christmas celebration in the United States has an aspect of giving gifts, the Christmas season would not be the same without the Black Friday day – the first shopping day of the season, and the day that many of the stores offer discounted prices.
According to the article ” What is True History on Black Friday.” the most repeated story about shopping day tradition after Grace Day can be connected with stores.
As the story continues, after being operating the stores in the red, bone not making money, the day after the Day of Grace is when the stores return to black, because many people would compare a lot of merchandise with the sales.
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“Even if it is true that the store companies organized their debts in red and their profits in black when doing the accounts, this is the version of Black Friday sanctioned – even if it is wrong – that is behind the tradition.”
Another version of the story is that the term “Black Friday” began in the 1960’s in Philadelphia when the Philadelphia police coined the term for increased traffic in the city on Friday after Grace Day. They called it “Black Friday” because tourists, buyers, people who went to football matches, and thieves caused a lot of chaos for the police.
Whatever the story behind the name “Black Friday,” what you should know is that it is one of the most significant shopping days during the year because of the rebates and discounts that are offered that day.
The Black Friday shopping tradition can have many people camping out at night to their local Walmart or Best Buy, and other stores, waiting to be one of the first online for the new device, or try to give it to someone for Christmas or to keep it.
To capitalize on the profits of that day, some of the companies have started opening their stores on Thanksgiving Day but they open earlier on Friday, sometimes they open at 3 or 4 in the morning on Friday. Some families have a tradition of shopping on Black Friday and begin before the sun rises and do not end until they have the gifts for everyone on their Christmas list. That makes for a long day of shopping.
If you feel brave and want to be part of your new Black Friday tradition, put on comfortable shoes and be prepared to be in long lines.
Now that you know a little more about the history and celebrations of the United States Christmas season, we welcome you to start your own traditions in Oklahoma. Consider hosting a dinner with your family and your new American friends. Share your favorite recipes from your native country with them. Do you need help finding ingredients?
The Christmas season gives a special focus on getting together with family and friends, so as you decide to celebrate, we hope you are surrounded by feelings of consolation and happiness.