My kids haven’t realized it, but as we are getting ready for Christmas they are learning about our family’s Christmas traditions – which, like all American Christmas traditions, have been influenced by countries around the globe! This month we will have the opportunity as a family to learn more about Christmas around the world, thanks to the Christmas in Different Lands blog hop that is being run by Multicultural Kid Blogs !
Today is my turn on the blog hop train, and I’m here are some traditions I have seen throughout the United States! I’m skipping over the ubiquitous Christmas trees, Santa Claus and elves to talk about some other elements of Christmas that I see throughout the country. Many of our most common traditions come from the United Kingdom – a heritage, no doubt, of the thirteen original colonies belonging to the British Empire.
Nativity sets are also very popular at this time of year, and in the United States you find them in all shapes and sizes! Besides the wood, ceramic, and play nativity sets, you can usually find a live nativity near where you live, with the nativity acted out by real people. This is an especially fun way for children to explore the Christmas story!
It’s easy to make your own costumes for a live nativity:
- Take two pieces of fabric that are the width of the wearer from elbow to elbow and as long as you need the finished costume to be (we usually go for ankle length-ish)
- Stitch the top sides together, leaving an opening in the middle for the head.
- Hem the head opening
- Stitch the sides, leaving a generous opening for the arms
- Hem the arm openings
- Hem the bottom
- Stitch a long length of material for a sash to tie around the person’s waist. Or steal your bathrobe tie.
Rectangular dish towels with ties make reasonable improvised head gear (note that all of this requires considerable willing suspension of disbelief, and is not meant to be historically representational apparel).
I love to sing, so caroling parties are one of my favorite traditions, as are Messiah sing-alongs. Several of the popular Christmas songs have different words for them depending on which part of the country you are in, but The Twelve Days of Christmas has only a couple variations, in spite of being incredibly long. I do enjoy the versions of it that require groups of people to stand and sing sections of the song (one group being “five golden rings”, another “ten lords a-leaping”).
I received three CDs of music to review this year, and I thought they represented a neat cross-section of holiday music as you find it in the United States today:
- The Piano Guys stuck with the traditional Christian and secular carols that I heard growing up – with their creatively innovative arrangements! My family has enjoyed this musical group for a while, and this new CD was no exception. This video will give you a nice introduction to the CD, if you aren’t familiar with their work.
- Joshua Bell – one of my favorite violinists who I have written about before – compiled a holiday Musical Gifts CD that included collaborations with artists ranging Renee Fleming and Placido Domingo to Chick Corea. The CD features mainly Christian and secular Christmas songs, but also includes “Baal Shem: Simhat Torah” – a celebration of the Torah.
- Daria is a musician with a passion for world music – I wrote earlier this year about her Andean Music CD. She sent me her Songs for Merry Multicultural Mirth CD, which featured songs – Christian, secular, and Jewish – from around the world.
The Christmas season is a great chance to reconnect with friends and neighbors! Cookie swaps – where each person brings one kind of cookie and takes home an assortment – are popular, as are white elephant/yankee swaps, where everyone brings a present to give to someone else. Secret gift-giving is a fun way to get into the spirit of giving without expecting anything in return, and you find a lot of anonymous do-gooders around Christmas time. Secret Santa or Secret Snowflake gift swaps – where everyone gets a present and everyone gives one, but you aren’t meant to know who gave what to whom – are a more complex way of giving gifts.
Stockings are a popular feature of American Christmases. Mike and I have followed along with my parents’ tradition of allowing the kids to dig into their stockings as early as they wished on Christmas morning, provided they let mom and dad sleep in!
The United States may not host many elaborate Christmas markets, but at-home crafting is very popular around Christmas time! Paper chains and popcorn decorate Christmas trees, children make salt dough ornaments, and gingerbread houses are baked – alongside large quantities of cookies! Felt is also a very popular Christmas crafting material – I find myself pulling it out without even realizing it when December rolls around!
I know that this post only begins to touch on American Christmas traditions – which are your favorites?
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Our week had a strong Christmas/family/Thanksgiving focus – how about you? Share your fun and educational family time activities for elementary aged kids in this week’s linky! By doing so, you give us permission to feature your post and pin it to our After School Activities & Adventures Pinterest board – thanks! I loved these colorful wooden blocks from Kids Activities Blog, which would wrap up beautifully in this pine cone wrapping paper from Home Grown Friends !