Living Abroad

10 Fun things about Christmas in the United States

By Magalí Zaslabsky

  • Stockings
Christmas stockings at Target

Christmas stockings are an American tradition that I love. Looking for some information about stockings, I found this article from the British newspaper The Telegraph that explains their origin. Basically, we hang stocking on the chimney, stairs, or shelves if you don’t have any of the others. And on Christmas morning, everyone gets to see what Santa brought them in their stockings. Some of the things you can include in your stocking are candy (especially candy canes!) and small gifts like pens, makeup, or small toys. 

If you are looking for ideas, Pinterest is a stocking stuffer’s heaven. Thinking about ideas to fill up stockings is fun and creative. Use your imagination!

  • Turkey

Yes, turkey. This is not only the traditional food for Thanksgiving, but also for Christmas. Supermarkets sell big turkeys from early November to late December, and many people choose it as their Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Day lunch. I wonder, what is your family’s traditional meal for Christmas?

  • Christmas vs Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving dessert

Talking about Thanksgiving… for some people in the United States, the most important family holiday is Thanksgiving. At least for me and my family, Christmas has always been the time of the year when we all try to meet and celebrate together. And when I moved to the U.S., I thought that Christmas would also be the main holiday season for Americans, but I have discovered that, for some families, Thanksgiving is the moment where they make the effort to meet and spend time together. Don’t get me wrong… Christmas is still very important, and also a family holiday, but for some people, it is more of an immediate family holiday instead of the big “get together.” 

  • Home Decoration      
Christmas neighborhood lights street in Austin, TX

I don’t think that ANY place beats the United States in terms of Christmas home decoration. I remember the first time I went to Hobby Lobby and Target and saw the huge (and I mean it, HUGE) house decoration products, including trees, garlands, lights, garden decorations, wreaths and many, many more things. 

Christmas decorations at Target

Two years ago, I visited a famous Christmas neighborhood lights street in Austin, Texas, where the decoration was over the top. A lot of people drove by this road and took pictures next to the houses. Some of the houses accepted donations from the visitors. They were amazing…

But even in regular neighborhoods, it is common to see a couple of houses on every street that have decided to celebrate the season with some lights and decorations. 

  • Egg Nog

I feel like I have to mention this, because it is in every Christmas movie. And it’s true, Americans like egg nog. I don’t. But it is usual to see many types of egg nog on shelves in the supermarkets next to the milk and juice section. Kids like to drink it as a treat during this holiday season. You should try it and check it off your list next time you visit the U.S. for Christmas!

  • Ugly Sweaters

For some people, this is a family tradition. Everyone wears an ugly sweater for the family photo. And there is a lot to choose from! Ugly sweaters are everywhere, from Walmart, to Target, GAP or Forever 21. And when I say ugly, I am not exaggerating. Some are very ugly! In case you need to see it with your own eyes, visit and draw your own conclusion. 

  • Gingerbread houses, cookies and peppermint candy. 
Gingerbread houses selections at Target

I knew about gingerbread houses before moving to the United States, but I didn’t know about boxes of brand-name candy, with ninja gingerbread men, small villages, ugly sweaters and castles made out of gingerbread! It is impossible to resist getting one. The gingerbread cookies are usually not very good, but you can also make your own with all the baking supplies available to build them. 

And I couldn’t leave cookies and peppermint candy out of this post, two Christmassy things that you can find everywhere in this season (particularly peppermint, which is really everywhere).

  • Seasonal Candy Packaging

You can find all your favorite candy, but during this time of year, with a special seasonal packaging. This is true for many other seasons in the U.S…. It happens during Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving… you get where I’m going. And it’s very pretty to see! 

  • Real (Natural) Trees
Christmas trees for sale

Where I grew up, the default is plastic Christmas trees. I am not even sure that in Spain it would be easy to find a real (live) Christmas tree. But here, for many people, a real one is the default. More and more, fake trees are becoming popular, but the real ones are sold every year at specific places where people walk around looking at different tree sizes and choosing the perfect one for their homes. It is an incredible experience to have a real tree… the smell is awesome, but it is also dirtier and you have to clean around the tree very often. So this year we are doing a fake tree. 

  • The Christmas Pickle
The Christmas pickle ornament

Finally, there is the Christmas pickle. This tradition says that someone has to hide a pickle ornament on the tree, and whoever finds it first on Christmas morning gets a special present. So, if you ever visit a Christmas shop or get ornaments in the United States, be sure to look around for pickles. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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1 Comment

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