What Are The Most Popular Christmas Traditions In America?

There are many American Christmas traditions that families partake in every year. Christmas brings cheer to people of all ages, and many families have their own unique traditions that make the holiday special for them. Some popular traditions include hanging Christmas stockings, eating Christmas cookies, watching Christmas movies, and going caroling. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular traditions associated with the holiday.

Presents Under the Christmas Tree

Opening Presents

One of the most popular traditions is opening presents on Christmas morning. Children in the family wake up early to run to their presents under the Christmas tree. Often earlier than the parents would like! Gathering around the Christmas tree and watching the children open their presents brings families together, and brings them great joy.

Hanging Christmas Stockings

One tradition that is often practiced in America is hanging Christmas stockings. According to legend, Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop, came to the aid of a poor family who could not afford to buy their children Christmas gifts. Saint Nicholas secretly dropped money into the family’s stockings that were hanging by the fireplace to help them out. Ever since then, people have hung stockings by the fireplace during Christmas in order to receive presents from Santa Claus. Today, Americans hang colorful stocking, which may be filled with candy, small gifts, or money. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Christmas Stockings on the Fireplace

Christmas Trees

One of the most iconic images of Christmas is a decorated Christmas tree. Many families have Christmas trees in their homes. People often decorate the tree, whether it is a real or artificial tree, with ornaments, garland, strings of lights, and other decorations.

Christmas trees have a rich history and are actually a huge part of American holidays. Some people buy them, while others cut them down themselves in the woods. Some families have trees in every room of their house or have extravagant light shows. Presents are usually placed under the tree.

Decking the Halls

Another popular tradition in America during the holidays is putting up decorations inside and outside of homes and businesses. People decorate their houses with Christmas trees, lights, wreaths, and ornaments. Some businesses will have a giant Christmas tree in the lobby or light up the entire building with holiday decorations.  Towns and villages will often light up  their main streets and other areas with festive Christmas lights. Houses and businesses will also often have lights outlining their property.

Christmas Lights in Town

Christmas Lights

Many people also enjoy driving around to look at Christmas lights. Residential streets, parks, and business districts all light up with impressive light shows. Some families like to create their own light displays in their front yards or houses. Christmas lights are popular decorations during the holiday season, though it is important for people to be safe while driving around looking at them!

Gift Giving

One of the most important aspects of Christmas is gift giving! Many families start planning for Christmas gifts in September or October. Gifts are usually given to friends, family members, and loved ones. Gifts can be anything from a simple card to an expensive present.

Gift Giving

Christmas Dinner

Many families have a Christmas feast with traditional foods like ham or turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Other dishes include green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and rolls. Eggnog is a favorite Christmas drink. Pumpkin and pecan pies are popular, too. There’s always room for dessert! After dinner, some families will watch Christmas movies or visit family and friends.


Many people also like to bake cookies or other sweets for Christmas. This is a tradition that often starts in early December and lasts until the end of the month. There are many different recipes for Christmas cookies, like sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, and chocolate chip cookies. And there are endless variations on frosting and decorating them as well. Some families make Christmas cookies together or bake homemade pies.

Christmas Cookies

Santa Claus

Santa Claus is an important Christmas figure. He’s commonly depicted as a jolly old man with a long white beard, red suit, and black boots. Saint Nicholas was a real person who lived in fourth century, and he became the model for Santa Claus. American children typically write letters to Santa Claus asking for presents they want for Christmas. They also leave milk and cookies out for him on Christmas Eve, in the hopes that he will leave them some presents in return. Some families even leave carrots for Santa’s reindeer. Santa magically comes down the chimney to deliver presents for children to open on Christmas morning.

Nativity Scenes

Nativity Scenes are often displayed in churches and homes. They depict the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. These scenes include Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus as well as the manger and the animals. Many families put up Nativity Scenes that were passed down from generation to generation.

Nativity Scene

Sending Christmas Greeting Cards

Christmas cards are also a popular tradition in America. Sending Christmas cards to your loved ones is a fun way to celebrate the holiday season! Some families include a long letter, filling everyone in on what has happened in their family throughout the year. Some families send cards with a picture of the family on it. A picture of the family together can be a really special memory to hold onto during the year. Some families make their own Christmas cards.


Christmas is a time for giving and many people donate money or goods to charities or participate in food drives. Many people choose to donate to a charity whose work focuses on helping those in need during the Christmas season. This is a great way to give back to the community and help those who are less fortunate.

Bell ringer

Christmas Travel

Christmas is a popular time for travel by car or plane to visit relatives who live far away. For example, many children will go back home to see their family after spending months at college. Some people take trips to the mountains in order to enjoy the snow and go skiing.

Christmas Movies

Another common tradition is watching Christmas movies together. Some of the most popular Christmas movies are A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause, Elf, Home Alone, and Scrooged. And the kids like to watch the Christmas cartoons, including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and others.

Wrapping Presents

Another popular tradition is wrapping Christmas presents. Most people will start wrapping their gifts a few days before Christmas, and some people even start in November! It’s a fun tradition to get the family together and wrap all of the presents. Packages are wrapped with colorful, Christmas-themed paper and bows, and sometimes people will decorate the packages with bells, holly, and other decorations.

Christmas Wrapping Paper

Christmas Events and Music

There are also many Christmas concerts, plays, and performances that take place during the holiday season. Christmas is also a time for listening to holiday music. These traditions add to the festive feeling of the season.

Christmas Shopping

One of the most common American Christmas traditions is going Christmas shopping. Most people start their shopping in November, and many retailers offer special deals and discounts to lure customers in. Many people buy gifts for their friends and family, but there are also those who purchase gifts for complete strangers. Some people go all-out with their Christmas shopping, while others prefer to keep it simple. Popular gift ideas include toys, clothes, electronics, and gift cards.

Christmas Shopping at the Mall

Church Services

Christmas is a family time, but it is also a very religious holiday. Many families will go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for special services and prayers.

Christmas Caroling

Caroling is one of the oldest and most iconic traditions of American holidays. The carolers go from door to door, singing Christmas songs and wishing people a Merry Christmas. Some people may choose to dress up in Christmas costumes while they carol. Singing around the neighborhood or at friends’ houses is a fun way to get into the Christmas spirit, and spread Christmas cheer!

Christmas Carolers

The Reason for the Season

At the heart of all of these traditions is the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Spending time with family and friends, enjoying good food and music, and exchanging gifts are all wonderful parts of Christmas. But remembering the real reason for the season is the most important part of all!

There are many other Christmas traditions that vary from family to family. American’s celebrate Christmas in lots of different ways and there is no one right way to do things. What is important is that families come together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the holiday season!

What are some of your favorite American Christmas traditions? Do you have any family traditions that you always participate in during the holiday season? We would love to hear about them in the comments! Merry Christmas!

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