Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top 5 Most Interesting U.S. Christmas Traditions, Plus Contest

I think I've blogged before about how non-traditional my family is about Christmas, despite being religious and conservative. I think it's really that we're pretty no-fuss people, and celebrations get so elaborate and complicated.

But I do enjoy hearing about other people's traditions. So I did a little research about Christmas traditions in the United States, just to see what other Americans were doing for the Christmas season.

So without further delay, my Top 5 Most Interesting Christmas Traditions in America, in no particular order:

1. Las Posadas - New Mexico and Arizona

This 9-day celebration (Dec. 16th through Christmas Eve) commemorates the Biblical journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem, and their search for a place to stay. The event includes a candle-lit procession and a colorful pageant that usually features the children of the town, and culminates in a big feast on Christmas Eve.

More information on Las Posadas can be found here, here and here.

3. Reveillon - New Orleans

Reveillon, or "awakening" in French, was a Creole custom, borrowed from their French ancestors. After a day of religious fasting on Christmas Eve, the Creoles would come home from Midnight Mass and enjoy an elaborate feast to break the fast. The feast would go on through the night, ending in the early morning hours.

Though it's not celebrated the same way today, since not as many people observe religious fasts, many local New Orleans restaurants still offer Reveillon dinners during the Christmas season.
More here.

4. Christmas Luau - Hawaii

Mele Kalikimaka! The greeting is actually a Hawaiianization of the English "Merry Christmas," which the natives apparently had trouble pronouncing when Christian missionaries introduced the tradition to the islands back in the 1800s.

While most of Hawaii's Christmas Traditions were introduced by the Christian missionaries who arrived there in the 1800s, there was a New Year's festival already celebrated there by the natives, called Makahiki. When the holiday was Christianized to include Christmas, many of the food traditions of the holiday became part of the Hawaiian Christmas tradition.

5. The Mummers Parade - New Year's Day - Philadelphia

Though technically, this is a New Year's Day tradition, it comes out of a Swedish tradition of "Second Day Christmas," featuring post-Christmas visits to friends. The custom expanded to include New Year's Day as well, including a noisy and colorful parade to welcome the new year. There's a good history of the celebration here.

For Philadelphia, the Mummers Parade is as significant and distinctive as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans.

So, how about y'all? What are some of your favorite holiday traditions, here in the US or wherever you live? Please post all about them in the comments and share a little Christmas spirit with the rest of us. Or, if you celebrate a different holiday, like Hannukah, around this time of year, tell us about those traditions as well.

Need the pot sweetened a little bit? I'm going to select one lucky commenter to win a copy of Carla Cassidy's Scene of the Crime: Bridgewater, Texas, which I featured on yesterday's blog post.

So get to commenting!


Naima Simone said...

Hi, Paula!
How cool! The videos are great and very interesting! Who knew all those different traditions were in the good 'ol US of A!

A tradition my family and I started a few years back was a Christmas Talent Show. My father comes in to town every year, so with him, my mother, my sister's family and mine, we have a great time!! It's hilarious! One year my husband and I did a dance routine to The Temptations, "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer". I have the evidence on tape, too! LOL!

Misty Wright said...

Let's see we love to be with family during this time of year. So, we have lots of family time were we play games, like dirty Santa and have tons of laughs. :)

When I was growing up our big thing was to go out and buy a tree. We'd come home eat soup and decorate the tree and we ALWAYS watched the Christmas classics on TV, which is what I do with my kids now. :)

Paula said...

Naima, I'm thinking you need to share your video footage of some of that, hon. ;)

Misty, we have our family Christmas gathering (my brother, sister and mom, plus their families) at my brother's house on Christmas Eve. And our Christmas classic is A Christmas Story. It's just not Christmas without Ralphie and his quest for his Daisy Red Ryder.

Debbie Kaufman said...

We have a small family tradition that evolved out of the traditional request from our kids on Christmas Eve to just open one present (begging). So, on Christmas Eve we gave each child one present, a Christmas ornament that commemorated something significant in their life that year. After the holidays, they used their own storage box and amassed a significant collection of memories through the years. It makes for a lot of strolling down memory lane when we put the tree up each year. When our children marry, move out, etc. the ornaments go with them so they can start their own tree.
Now, the adult kids give us ornaments every year to fill in the gap that their ornaments left!

Linda Henderson said...

We gather every year at my sisters to open presents and have a big dinner. My sister likes to play games so a lot of times we will play board games after the food is all cleared away. I'm not sure what we will do this year because she had a total knee replacement on the 2nd and I don't think she will be in any kind of shape for a celebration.

Paula said...

Linda, I hope you'll still be able to enjoy Christmas with your sister. I hope she's doing well!

I love that tradition, Debbie! It's something tangible you can hang on the tree every year to remind yourself of your lovely family.