American Christmas Traditions: Things That Make it So American

American Christmas traditions

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and today, we’re getting into the holiday spirit with some American Christmas Traditions. Christmas is a HUGE holiday in the US! Probably because it’s very commercial, but, anyway….

We have so many Christmas traditions, and today, I want to share the holiday joy with you, in case you want to bring an American touch to your own celebrations. Ho, ho, ho! Let’s go!

A special thank you

I want to thank the site Back to the States for the inspiration for today’s episode. Back in September, they wrote an article in French, whose title translates to “How to Prepare a Real American Christmas.”

Their article hit the nail on the head, meaning, it was absolutely right about how we celebrate Christmas in the US. So I asked if I could make an episode based in their article, and they kindly said “Oui!” Thank you, Back to the States!

Christmas decorations

Of course we have a Christmas tree, decorated with Christmas ornaments–not “Christmas balls”, careful!, candy canes, candy canes, garland, and lights. Some people even get a flocked tree that is covered in artificial snow, or they take care to use the same colors in all their decorations so it looks perfect! Gotta look good for all those family pictures in front of the tree!

One popular decoration is a popcorn garland, and it’s simple to make! You only need popcorn, a needle, and string. And time. But it’s a fun Christmas decoration you can make with your kids!

Garlands, wreaths, and stockings

One popular Christmas carol starts with “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la. Decking the halls, or just decorating in everyday English is super important at Christmas. Americans go all out, meaning, they do it big.

Every room in the house might be transformed with Christmas magic! Or at least the kitchen, living room, and even the bathrooms!

In the living room, we put maybe a wreath above the fireplace. The wreath is often made of pine branches decorated with things like ribbons, jingle bells, pine cones, maybe some artificial snow.

And we definitely put one on the front door of the house, to welcome visitors with a festive spirit! Inside, we might put pine garlands on the mantel above the chimney, or on the rail of the stairway.

And of course, Christmas stockings are a must! Each member of the family, especially children, have their own Christmas stocking, hung by the fireplace, or on the stairway.

When Santa comes to visit on the night of Christmas Eve, he fills the stockings with small gifts, candy, and maybe even some money. If you’ve been good all year, of course!

And as a thank you, and to make sure that Santa has enough energy to continue his Christmas Eve journey around the world, it’s nice to leave some Christmas cookies, and a glass of milk for the jolly old elf.

A Christmas Carol

Another Christmas tradition? A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Theaters all over the US run shows of this popular story of a mean, cold, bitter old man named Ebeneezer Scrooge, who only loves money.

Then, on Christmas Eve, he’s visited by three Christmas spirits who show him the joy of the holidays, and the consequences of his greedy behavior. Overnight, he’s transformed into a loving, generous, joyful old man who learns to love others and celebrate life.

It’s a beautiful story, one that I watch every year! I recommend the animated version of A Christmas Carol, with Jim Carrey. It’s very touching, and just magical!

Santa Claus, snowmen and nutcrackers

There will also be perhaps  statues of Santa Claus, the big fat man who brings presents, or a snowman. Back home in Mississippi, the only snowmen we ever saw were statues!

Nutcrackers are a symbol of Christmas too, and back in the US, I had an entire collection of maybe 10 different nutcrackers. Speaking of which, the ballet “The Nutcracker” by Tchaikovsky is a big Christmas tradition. Local ballet companies and big theaters do productions of “The Nutcracker.” I try to see it every year!

The Elf on the Shelf

This cute little guy is named “The Elf on the Shelf”, and he looks innocent, but he’s a spy (or as they say on the website, “a scout”)!

The story says that Santa Claus sends an elf to each home to watch the children. This way, Santa knows if the children have been naughty, naughty, bad, or nice.

During the day, the elf can’t move, but each night, they go back to the North Pole to give a report to Santa on everything they observed. Were the children naughty or nice?

Each morning, the children find the elf in a different place in the house, and it’s great fun to see where the elf will be each morning.

Something else that’s great fun? Watching this episode on American Christmas traditions!

Of course, there are many, many other Christmas traditions in the USA. We didn’t even talk about food, or Christmas Carols, or how some American houses are decorated with enough lights to decorate an entire village.

I’ll save all of that for next year! But these were just a few of the most popular traditions for a very American Christmas.

Now, what about you?

How do you celebrate Christmas in your country? Or do you celebrate Christmas at all?

I love learning about other cultures, and I know that other Speak English Ambassadors do too. So please, share your Christmas traditions with us! Or tell us about the biggest holiday in your country.

Now, for the next 2 weeks, we’re taking a break to celebrate, so let me wish you lots of joy, happiness, and love for the holiday season! See you in the new year!

Happy Holidays,


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