Christmas Traditions in the U.S. – What to Expect This Holiday Season

Christmas Traditions in the U.S. – What to Expect This Holiday Season

What images flash in your mind when you read the word “Christmas”?

A decorated Christmas tree. Santa Claus on his sleigh. Gifts. Right? However, this imagery doesn’t fully encompass the unique Christmas traditions in different U.S. states.

In the next five minutes, learn different Christmas traditions in the U.S. to ensure you enjoy the holiday season in more depth.

Christmas traditions in the U.S.

Alabama: The Gathering of Elves

Residents in Mobile, Alabama gather in the streets dressed up as elves. Why? To break the world record of most elves in one place.

The Siam Paragon Development Company Limited in Bangkok holds the record since 2014. The company gathered 1,762 participants to achieve the feat. 

The gathering of elves in Alabama is known as Elfapalooza. Here, you can sing Christmas karaoke with the participants, sip on beer, wine, or hot chocolate, and watch the classic Christmas film, Elf.

Alaska: Wooden Star Parade

The orthodox Russian community in Alaska celebrates Christmas with Selaviq — also known as starring.

Parishioners carry a colored wooden star on a long pole from house to house. When they reach a house, the residents of that house join in the parade. When the parade ends, people sing hymns to celebrate the journey of the Three Wise Men. They also exchange gifts.

The wooden star represents the Star of Bethlehem. The Gospel of Matthew states the three Magi, or Wise Men, followed this star to find newborn Jesus in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

Arizona: The Largest Tumbleweed Christmas Tree

The residents of Chandler, Arizona experience a dry and warm climate. The climate favors tumbleweed growth. Thus, the residents use the tumbleweed to build the largest tumbleweed Christmas tree.

City workers collect the dried tumbleweeds beginning in September, and construction of the tree begins in the first week of December. The complete tree incorporates 1,000 tumbleweeds.

City workers place the tumbleweeds around a 25-foot chicken-wire frame. Afterward, the workers spray the tree with paint, flame retardant, and glitter. 1,200 holiday lights cover the Christmas tree.

A Chandler resident, Earl Barnum, constructed the first tumbleweed Christmas tree in 1957. 

Arkansas: The Trail of Holiday Lights

Imagine this scenario: You drive around the city. You see bright-colored lights twinkle in every neighborhood. Parks and community halls showcase holiday lights as well. Furthermore, you receive a map to follow this trail of lights.

The Trail of Holiday Lights offers the aforementioned scenario. The event began in 1985. Each year, communities across the state participate in the annual event. The lights display the unique features of Arkansas.

Sip on hot chocolate, participate in ice skating, and even ride a camel while admiring the light displays.

California: Surfing Santa Competition

What’s better than celebrating Christmas? Helping people while you celebrate.

The Ritz Carlton holds the Surfing Santa competition every year in Laguna Niguel, California. The competition runs for two days, and surfers dress up in Santa suits and paddle out into the waves.

In addition, the hotel chain conducts a Holiday Surfboard Auction. The hosts donate the raised money to Surfers Healing — an NGO that organizes surf camps for those with autism. Ritz Carlton has raised over $417,000 through the competition so far.

Connecticut: Lantern Light Shows in Mystic Seaport

Want to celebrate Christmas in a 19th century village? Attend the lantern light shows at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut.

The one-hour performance takes you back to the village of Greenmanville in 1876. Watch the village’s last-minute preparations for Christmas, listen to the jingles of sleigh bells, and marvel at hundreds of lanterns lighting your way.

You’ll join a group of 16 people on the tour. A guide dressed as a townsperson explains the traditions and answers your queries. You can walk, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage to complete the tour.

The museum sells horse-and-carriage tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis.   

Delaware: Leaving Milk for the Tomte

The Swedish community in Delaware brings their tradition to celebrate Christmas.

A devilish imp named Tomte visits the houses on Christmas. Children leave milk outside their houses to please the imp. In return, Tomte leaves gifts for the well-behaved children.

A Swedish legend describes Tomte as a mischievous and vengeful creature. However, people now regard Tomte as Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas-like figures.

Georgia: Macy’s Pink Pig Train

Macy’s upper-level parking deck at Lenox Square in Atlanta, Georgia houses a pink pig-shaped train named Priscilla.  

The train carries passengers through a life-sized storybook. The storybook features the original Pink Pig and other holiday friends’ stories.

Macy’s donates a portion of the ticket sales to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The company has donated over $800,000 so far.    

Idaho: Christmas Cruise 

Are you in Idaho? Visit the largest on-the-water holiday lights display in the U.S.

Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises hosts the Christmas Cruise every year. USA Today ranked the show as the fourth best show in the country.

You will board the ship at the Boardwalk Marina. The ship takes you on a 45-minute cruise over Lake Coeur d’Alene to Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. Over 1.5 million Christmas lights twinkle on both sides of the lake.

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and elves greet passengers at the North Pole. You’ll also be able to marvel at the tallest living Christmas tree (162 feet). On the shore, the Victorian village showcases over 5,000 lights. The journey concludes with a fireworks display in the night sky. 

Maryland: Miracle on 34th Street

Bob Hosier lives on 34th Street in Baltimore. In 1982, he placed strings of Christmas lights on the Christmas tree in his front yard. The neighbors mimicked his action, beginning a new tradition.

Each year, every house participates in the annual lighting display. The event is known as the Miracle on 34th Street. The lighting display attracts people from all around the country.

The event begins on the 30th of November, and runs until the 1st of January. The lights stay on display from 6:00 P.M until 10:00 P.M. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the residents leave the lights on all night.

Each U.S. State Celebrates Christmas with a Unique Tradition

Being a melting pot of cultures, the U.S. showcases unique Christmas traditions in each state, city, and even neighborhood. If you’ve recently moved to the U.S. or are about to move, you’re sure to find these traditions entertaining.   

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