Christmas Traditions: Britain vs. America

Americans love their egg nog at Christmas time— there's even a recipe for a vegan, gluten-free version via Elana's Pantry. (Photo: Elana Amsterdam, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved)

Americans love their egg nog at Christmas time— there’s even a recipe for a vegan, gluten-free version via Elana’s Pantry. (Photo: Elana Amsterdam, Flickr, Creative Commons, some rights reserved)

As with many cultural differences between the U.K. and the United States, you’d be forgiven for believing that Christmas is the same on either side of the Pond. After all, Christmas is Christmas, right? Well, while the overall message of Yuletide is largely the same in both countries, there are some subtle, if crucial, variations.

The language of Christmas, for instance, is not strictly uniform. Americans will chuckle to themselves (or appear bemused) if you wish them “Happy Christmas” (as opposed to “Merry Christmas”), while the shortening of Christmas to “Chrimbo” is almost universally unknown in the United States. Come to that, so is the name “Father Christmas”; Americans refer to him only as “Santa Claus” or simply “Santa.”

Whatever his name, it is widely held in the U.S. that Santa resides—along with his reindeer, his helpers and, of course Mrs. Claus—in the North Pole. Most Americans would think you’ve had one too many snowballs if you mentioned Lapland.

Actually, snowballs are also largely unheard of in America—at least by name. The closest equivalent stateside to that lovely mixture of Advocaat and lemonade is egg nog, a spiced egg-based drink often mixed with some sort of liquor (usually bourbon, rum or brandy).

Indeed, you might very well enjoy egg nog while sitting down to a good old American Christmas dinner. Except, don’t necessarily expect to eat turkey. Americans reserve that particular food item for Thanksgiving, and often opt for ham or roast beef on Christmas Day. Moreover, traditional Christmas desserts such as Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies are not particularly popular in the U.S. More likely, your post-meal treat will take the form of one of the following: pumpkin pie, marzipan, fruit cake, apple pie, pecan pie, coconut cake or sweet potato pie.

During the dinner, of course, we Brits are used to putting on our paper hats and pulling a Christmas cracker with a fellow diner. No such luck in the United States, where paper hats are less common and Christmas crackers are virtually unheard of. Just think of all the rubbish jokes Americans are missing out on!

You might think the absence of the Christmas cracker would make for a rather underwhelming Boxing Day—the day after Christmas, when the remaining crackers are often pulled. Except Americans don’t even celebrate Boxing Day (though it is a nationally recognized holiday in Canada). Indeed, upon your insistence that December 26 should mark another day off from work, many Americans will assume you’ve had one too many egg nog cocktails.

One thing America does have in abundance, though, is lights. The extravagant Christmas decorations you may have seen in films like Home Alone are real, and some homeowners even turn their houses into full-on light shows with Christmas-themed music blasting from a PA system. Driving through American suburbia at Christmas can sometimes feel like a tour of Disney World.

But while the U.S. is big on its Christmas music, there are a couple of musical traditions that are noticeably absent from its Christmas calendar. Firstly, there is no place in American popular culture for the Christmas number one! Despite the popularity of shows such as American Idol and X-Factor (the latter of which has, to much derision, produced several Christmas number one artists in the U.K.), the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 does not place extra emphasis on the artist or group that is number one at Christmas.

Secondly, at a time of year when Brits are used to seeing washed-up celebrities ply their seasonal trade in the latest pantomime, the U.S.—a country steeped in show business history—does not follow suit. Indeed, on the whole, Americans don’t even know what a pantomime is.

For all of these subtle differences, though, even the most stubborn of British expats would find it hard not to enjoy Christmas—with its multitude of lights and bombast—in America. The key point is that both countries are very good at harnessing the Christmas spirit. After all, Christmas is Christmas, right?

What are your favorite Christmas traditions, Brits? Tell us below:

See more:
A Guide to British Christmas Traditions
What NOT to Do at Christmas: A Guide for Brits
A Brit’s Guide to the U.S. Holiday Season
How to Cope with the Expat Christmas Blues

  • Sharon Stroud Broussard

    Having grown up with a British mum (who passed away a few years back), my brother and I always make sure that we have crackers, with the paper hats and silly toys, at Christmas. This year, I’m even splurging for a tin of Quality Street! :)

    Oh, this year we have a celebrity panto…a live version of The Sound of Music. sigh…

    • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

      It probably won’t even compare to a panto :-)

      • John H Harris

        It was horrible, even by American standards.

        • http://americaletter.blogspot.com/ Mark Smith

          So I hear. I don’t have live broadcast TV anymore. Roku and streaming are the way forward :-)

    • Carey Hollick

      I live in England and had no idea what a panto was….when you say a pantomime to an American they think of the guy pretending to be in a box with the white face paint :)

  • Martha Turner

    I’m an American and I’ve eaten mincemeat pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas all my life.

    • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

      I remember mince pies being eaten in the U.S. when I was little – forty some years ago.

      • Jwb52z

        The thing about “mince meat” is that it depends on when you had it as to what it actually was at the time. For example, most people no longer make it with actual meat as it was a long time ago.

        • Chazmanite1138

          Agreed. My grandmother made delicious mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas that had no meat in them. Athough, she did use lard in them at some point. :)

          • silentnonrev

            lard makes the best pastry!

          • Chazmanite1138

            I don’t think the lard was in the crust. I think it was in the filling.

            I don’t doubt that lard makes wonderful pasty, every television chef recommends lard in pie crust, but I don’t think my grandmother put lard i the crust. :)

          • silentnonrev

            doubt that seriously. Mince pies can be waten hot or cold….if cold, lard would solidify to a white layer of fat….most unappetizing!

    • bluecar

      I think the main difference there is that English mincemeat pies are always a small tart, not a full pie. It makes for a far more satisfying ratio of crust to filling, I find the heavily spiced mincemeat overwhelming in a large pie.

    • brentastico

      you know, im pretty sure mincemeat pies is an east coat/new england thing, because ive never even heard of mincemeat anything….

  • Alfirin

    I’m a British ex-pat and have just about got my in-laws here used to a slightly hybrid festive season when it comes to food. They get brussel sprouts with bacon, mince pies (my husband loves these with a passion), chocolate Yule log and sherry trifle. I used to splurge on importing Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and tins of Quality Street (anything to avoid awful American chocolate), but we’ve cut back on the calories a bit in recent months.

    • maggie

      I’ve just bought my Terry’s Chocolate Oranges at Rite Aid. We have mince pies, homemade with Robertson’s mincemeat and I get my Christmas pud by mail order,I’ve asked our daughter to bring some candied peel with her from home when she comes in a couple of weeks so that next year I can make a Christmas Cake.

      • Terry

        LOVE the Chocolate oranges! I wasn’t sure if they were really a British treat, but I usually try to buy 1 or 2 every Christmas.

    • Jwb52z

      What exactly is “awful” about American chocolate to you?

      • jenny

        Obviously you have never had English chocolate

        • Jwb52z

          I’ve always thought English chocolate was overly sweet. I Prefer Belgian or German or Swiss if I’m not eating American.

          • John H Harris

            Agreed. I found Cadbury’s to be far sweeter in Wales than it is here. Go for a higher cacao content for something more akin to European chocolate.

      • Penny Newton

        It tastes as though it’s made with very cheap tasteless margarine instead of cocoa butter. Years ago I would send a box of Hershey’s Kisses to relatives & friends in England, until I got the message that they went straight in the bin. The only US chocolate I love is Dove.

      • We_were_on_a_break

        it tastes cheap. The flavour (yes I’m British so I use an u) is kind of bland. I have tried both. Cadbury chocolate is scrummy.

      • http://www.mickisuzanne.com/ Micki Suzanne

        Hershey’s & the like taste like wax.

    • Irené Colthurst

      If you consider “American chocolate” to only mean “Hershey’s chocolate”, okay. But try See’s or Ghiradelli’s, both originally out of San Francisco.

      • frozen01

        I second this! See’s chocolates are AMAZING, amongst the best chocolate I’ve ever had, and Ghiradelli’s is really good, too.

      • bela516

        I agree! Hershey’s, Nestle and the like are fairly cheap and not the best tasting. I go for Ghirardelli or Dove (European chocolates Godiva or Lindt are both big sellers in the US too) – or one of those boutique organic dark chocolates. There is a lot to be found in the US besides cheap, crap chocolate. :)

      • Error Flynn

        Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, anyone? Stuff’s like crack.

    • William Landin

      What’s Quality Street?

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

        Quality Street is actually a box (or a tin) of a variety of delicious, individually wrapped chocolates. They come in all shapes, sizes and flavor(u)rs.

  • Jwb52z

    The closest an American gets to a “pantomime” in the US is an actual mime, the annoying kind who take after Marcel Marceau.

    • soxlade

      If the mime’s audience shouts in unison the line “It’s behind you!” at him you are not a million miles away from a British Pantomime…

      • qazwiz

        any chance of getting a YouTube of an authentic UK pantomime?

      • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

        Ha ha ha ha. You also have to have a male actor in some female part (usually an older woman such as Widow Twanky) and a younger female playing the dashing male, such as Dandini in Cinderella. God knows why…

    • frozen01

      *shakes head* Pantomimes really don’t have anything to do with mimes. I think the connection came about because we started assuming “mime” was short for “pantomime”. I’ve even seen American TV show hosts make this mistake.

    • Nermal146

      Oh boo hoo, how do you cope!

    • Pat

      Untrue. Dell’Arte puts on comedic reinterpretations of traditional Christmas stories here in Humboldt County every year.

  • Di Keam

    An expat, living in the States for over 20 years I always make mince pies, this year actually found some at Home Goods! Thanks to Amazon have my Quality Street and Roses. Will be picking up Christmas Crackers at Home Goods also !…now if only I could find a bottle of Advocaat!

    • Trish

      You can get it from budgetbottle.com! It’s $25 a bottle.

  • Lynn from OK

    I am American and I love reading these articles. They are often quite amusing and make me think the authors have not seen very much of America. It’s a big country and customs vary but most people do have turkey on Christmas as well as Thanksgiving, though a lot of people, my own family included, prefer ham. Roast beef is rare on Christmas. My mother used to make a mince pie every Christmas.

    • Liz

      I agree with the comment about diversity in the U.S. I am American and, while I know what marzipan is, have never met anyone who had it for with a holiday meal. Also, I would add pound cake to the list of popular cakes during the holidays.

      • Papa Bear Andy

        I only know marzipan because of my mother’s Danish heritage. I’ve never tried it and I’ve only ever seen it in specialty stores like World Market.

        • beckylt

          Also, a number of American families, mine included, make a cake that includes some kind of alcohol! I’m getting ready to make my rum cake today.

    • Marion

      My family began incorporating the Christmas crackers and paper hats years ago. They sell them in many stores around here so I think it is becoming more common practice in the US to at least know what they are…at least in New England. :)

    • Cmkarol345

      I disagree. I’m an American (Northeast) and would never consider Turkey for Christmas. I do a roast Beef Tenderloin, My mom always did a Rib Roast. My grandmother made ham. Turkey is Thanksgiving.

    • Tiffany Souza

      My family always has BBQ beef ribs! My mom is always too exhausted from Thanksgiving to do it all again and we all like ribs better anyway. Honestly, I don’t even like turkey, or most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

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  • colinmeister

    The Christmas lights in America are over the top. If you come here from Britain, you will think you have landed in chav land! Some Americans do eat turkey for Christmas lunch, but since I don’t have a family, I do not eat it, since I would be eating left overs for the next fortnight.

    • Pat

      whatever is chav land?

      • Lucinda Wyman

        I believe the American equivalent of “chav” is “trailer trash.”

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

          Agreed, but some chavs are much more “bling”.

      • Kellstarr

        I recently visited England and the friend I stayed with introduced my daughter and I to “chavs”….as he drove by some unruly teenagers, referring to them as “skanky chavs”. We have adopted that phrase, now.

  • Kendra

    I agree most Americans don’t know “Chrimbo,” but I’m curious if Brits know/use the American shorthand “Xmas.” It used to be reserved for writing, but is now often spoken aloud, with or without irony.

    • RogueChocolate

      Brits use ‘Xmas’ as well. John Lennon’s song ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ is an example. However, I don’t think anyone says it as ‘X-mas’

      • Wendy

        That’s because the X in “Xmas” really isn’t the letter x but rather the Greek letter “chi” which is the first letter of the Greek word for “christ.” It is also part of “chi rho” which was often used to abbreviate Christ’s name.

        As for “Xmas” being an American abbreviation, it was found in Bernard Ward’s History of St. Edmund’s college, Old Hall–originally published circa 1755.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xmas

  • robin

    LOL—- I assumed a “Christmas cracker” was food! Found this on Wikipedia for an explanation, just for us Yanks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_cracker — Boy would I have been surprised if I had tried to take a bite! :)

    • frozen01

      I noticed while in my local Target last year that they had Christmas crackers on an end cap, but when I came back later they were gone. I stopped an employee to ask where they’d been moved, and he directed me to… the cracker and cookie section *lol*
      I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t caught on here, especially for a holiday that is so attuned towards children. Even as an adult I think Christmas crackers are a lot of fun :)

      • John H Harris

        I think the thing about Christmas crackers is that Americans associate pyrotechnics (even just the sound) with Independence Day, Indeed, we celebrate the Fourth of July with as much gunpowder as Brits do Guy Fawkes Day… perhaps even more.

        • frozen01

          Interesting, I’d never made that connection before. I just like the paper hats and the silly toys :)

          • John H Harris

            So do I, but they’re just not available around here. The closest thing I had growing up were those party streamer cannon things… and even those have disappeared in recent years.

          • Manuel Nelo Esteves

            Macy’s, Target, Home Goods, Marshalls, Kohl’s all carry Christmas Crackers in the Metro NYC area if anyone would like to try them. They make Christmas dinner way more entertaining!

          • John H Harris

            Unfortunately, I’m at the other end of the state (south of Buffalo).

          • Ellen H.

            I’ve seen them at Pier 1 as well. Plus, there’s always Amazon.

        • bela516

          I think I have seen Christmas Crackers at the Christmas Tree Shop in the past. What makes the “pop” sound?

      • Laura

        You can make your own crackers. They are easy I’ve made in the past. Just do DIY cracker search you can make kid ones and adult ones.

      • Nermal146

        We do Christmas Crackers every year. We usually have a couple Christmas dinners, and we have crackers at each one. The best is when we have “newbies” at dinner and they wear the stupid paper crowns along with us.

    • TexanBrit

      We have lived in both California and Texas and in both places Costco do crackers at Christmas and they are the nice ones. You can also get them in world market

  • kellynch

    My American family has been buying Christmas crackers every year since I can remember, and I’m in my 50s. Yes, the jokes are dreadful.

    Neither my parents nor I have a house swathed in lights. Just a tasteful wreath on the front door. And Mom always made standing rib roast for dinner.

  • Chloe

    Now I’m curious, what on earth is Lapland?

    • 1776andallthat

      It’s a chain of lap-dancing clubs. lol.
      It’s a region of Finland home of the ethnic Sami (or Laps) who are primarily reindeer herders.

      • Pat

        Lapps

    • Grayson Baker Friend

      It is where Santa Claus lives!

    • Manuel Nelo Esteves

      Isn’t it a region in the Scandinavias where Reindeer roam free and Father Christmas lives;)

    • Lucinda Wyman

      Lapland is in northern Scandinavia. Some of the people there are still reindeer herders.
      Don’t they teach this stuff in geography class anymore?

  • http://myspace.com/getjeffrey getjeffrey

    I’m American and we’ve always dined on goose on Xmas. My grandmother got the tradition from ‘A Christmas Carol’.

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  • Libby Carlson

    I am American and we normally always have turkey and ham or a roast, but if we have roast beef we always have it with Yorkshire pudding. It is actually probably my favorite thing about roasts. A lot of people will do lobster tail or crab legs here on Christmas as well. Basically Christmas dinner is a meal you get to splurge on, so you choose something you love that you normally don’t get to eat during the rest of the year. It is about comfort and family. Because Thanksgiving is so close to Christmas a lot of times American’s will opt out of the turkey because we literally just had a huge turkey meal. As for Chocolate, I don’t know any Americans that would consider Hersey good chocolate. Hersey is mainly for children.

    • Carey Hollick

      I’m American and Hershey was my favourite chocolate forever until I moved to England…loved my hershey kisses…

  • imahrtbrkbeat

    Though I’m American-born, my family is West Indian. I’ve always known that I had a different upbringing than most of my friends and peers (even some that have the same cultural heritage), but reading these articles, it shows how much more of a British influence I’ve had in my life than American. Especially when it comes to holiday traditions. My mummy (yes, we’ve kept the tradition — I never paid attention to the cultural difference of “Mommy” vs. “Mummy” until my teens), though has never celebrated Boxing Day with us. We’ve urged her to, but I do believe it is due to the fact that we don’t traditionally have that day off. So, that tradition fell by the wayside. Hopefully, we can change that.

  • Melissa

    well, at least you didn’t put the US down like Ruth has been,reading her articles almost made me change my mind about loving the English

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  • Michael F. Harris

    Lapland sounds like a strip club.

  • Judy

    When I was growing up, my British grandmother always made roast beef for Christmas so we grew up thinking this was a British custom! Having lived in many parts of the U.S., what people eat for Christmas dinner varies from one part of the country to another and one ethnic group to another. Marzipan is unknown in most parts of the country. We will be eating ham, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts along with a few other dishes. Have a merry holiday where ever you may be.

  • Barbara

    I’m a Brit who lives in Louisiana. This year I am having fried turkey , yep deep fried turkey! but I will still be having all the “trimmings” Saxo stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon, roast spuds and veg. My daughter surprised me a few days ago by flying over for Christmas and brought with her some Christmas crackers too – so full on English Christmas dinner for us!

    • bela516

      OH Goodness!! I LOVE fried Turkey! I don’t have it or make it myself at home – we had it at our work potluck. Our boss brought the fryer and everything and did it out back! It was SOOO good!! This year I’ll be in Kuwait for Christmas and we are roasting a pig! But back home, I usually make lasagne on Christmas Eve and Prime Rib for Christmas Day with a big salad and roast potatoes.

      • teachinginkuwait

        I live in Kuwait now – how in the world are you getting a whole pig into the Muslim country?!

    • Sharon Stroud Broussard

      Cheers, Barbara! If you’re in the Baton Rouge, maybe we should pool our resources..we’ll also have fried turkey, vegs and Christmas crackers. I’m also making Yorkshire puds. :)

    • William Landin

      I got invited to a deer roast on Xmas here in Austin, Tx.

      • brentastico

        lmfao you would. i recently moved to texas from seattle and i have to say the culture shock is crazy

  • Pat

    The biggest different that I’m aware of, and which doesn’t appear to merit a mention here, is that in America, this time of year is “the holidays”. As there is no state religion in this country, Christmas is just one of many theoretically religious holidays celebrated at this time of year. Although Christmas did of course originate from the Roman pagan holiday of Saturnalia – which is perhaps reincarnated in today’s seasonal conspicuous consumption madness.

  • http://markduddridge.wordpress.com Mark Duddridge

    We’ve had some of the British things I grew up with, at the occasional Christmas, but on the whole I’ve fully embraced the American ways of Christmas, since emigrating here.

  • Barbara

    I’m a Brit who lives in Louisiana. This year I am having fried turkey , yep deep fried turkey! but I will still be having all the “trimmings” Saxo stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon, roast spuds and veg. My daughter surprised me a few days ago by flying over for Christmas and brought with her some Christmas crackers too – so full on English Christmas dinner for us! Oh, and I have made and shared with my neighbours mince pies, who could not understand they dont have “mince meat” in them !

  • Patricia Larnaitis Spofford

    Italian Americans have Lasagne, Manicotti, etc.

  • FemininePhysique

    I’m more curious about the paper crowns than anything. I had never heard of that tradition until I started watching Doctor Who!

  • Christine

    I homeschool my kids. Every year we have a tradition of learning about Christmas around the world. We’ve definitely heard of Lapland and we’ve even made our own Christmas crackers when we learned about England.
    I agree that traditions in America vary from what area you’re from and your background. We have a tradition of making a cake to celebrate the birth of Jesus. (I know, nobody knows the exact date – not trying to start any debates!) Now they’re older, it’s just a regular cake we have for dessert. I’m a vegetarian and my family has some funny food allergies so we have yet to figure out a regular Christmas meal we can all eat together – or any meal honestly.
    Merry Christmas! :)

  • Badw0lf

    Christmas Crackers are becoming more popular here. I’ve found them at Target and Michael’s.

    Oh, and some of us (of PA German heritage) have the Belsnickle…lots of fun to scare the kiddies with

  • Nancy Iannuzzi

    My Italian immigrant Gran made MIncepies every Christmas, so not all of us are unfamiliar. Our Christmas eve meal is usually seafood, and Christmas Day is almost always a baked ham. No pies, though. We, as well as alot of Americans I know, make a selection of specialty cookies (biscuits) at Christmas. And only in desperation do we consider Hershey’s proper chocolate. I love English chocolate, but we have a few very good brands here as well. So you see as has been stated, there is a vast array of how we celebrate, all fattening and delicious! Happy Christmas to all!

  • SMStauffer

    We also call Santa Claus “Saint Nicholas,” or even “Saint Nick,” as in the Clement Moore poem, but, no, never “Father Christmas.

    Snowballs are known here — but they are, indeed, balls of snow. Eggnog is eggs and heavy, sweet cream and is believed to have originated in East Anglia, or if not, from the Old English posset, so there.

    Not sure that there is a traditional Christmas meal. Turkey is certainly an option; so is ham; roast beef, not so much. The main reason people might avoid turkey is that they’ve only recently finished off that Thanksgiving bird. Dessert is fruit cake. At least, fruit cake will make an appearance. Whether it is eaten is another matter. My grandmother always made mincemeat pies, but the “mincemeat” was chopped raisins. I had never even heard of marzipan until I went to Spain — but it is probably eaten in German communities in this country as part of a stollen. Desserts tend to reflect the ethnic heritage of the family, regardless of how assimilated they are otherwise. Panettone, julekage, St. Lucia’s crown, etc.

    The Christmas cracker is a recent introduction, certainly in my lifetime, and is still relatively unknown.

    We don’t do Boxing Day for the simple reason that we do not have the tradition of the aristocracy giving the servants their annual Christmas box and day off to visit the family, having worked the day before.

    Yes, my Australian husband (he claims he’s not British — but we’ll be having Christmas pudding in two days) and I have an annual “discussion” about whether we’ll put up the lights. On the years that I win, he claims that our house looks like something off the Las Vegas strip.

  • Lindsay Ann

    Christmas crackers are virtually unheard of? My family uses them every year, and we’re American! We even had Thanksgiving-themed ones this past Thanksgiving…they’re definitely fairly common.

  • Allison

    Im american and we have christmas crackers every year! however, my grandparents are from england, so that might have something to do with it ;)

  • Shea

    My grandma used to stuff her turkey with haggis!

  • Ellen H.

    My family does have turkey and usually mince tarts or pie. Frequently though dessert is a Christmas cookie or two. Sometimes we do have crackers but not always.

  • Matt

    I’m American and we always do a cracker on the Holiday plate and everyone cracks them at the end of the meal just before desert. Usually inside them, besides toys, is a paper hat. So plenty of American’s do crackers. They sell them at the grocery stores.

  • Kim

    Christmas Crackers are becoming more popular in the States. I’m seeing them in more stores this year.

  • Lucinda Wyman

    I’m Italian. Along with the turkey we have spaghetti and meatballs and an antipasto of proscuitto, green and black olives, sardines, and green peppers.

    • Catherine Maio

      I really miss those days!!! We used to do lasagne on Christmas with whatever meat dish we were having. Hard to believe we could eat so much back then.I have held on to the some sort of pasta and the antipasto, my family is too small for a roast too with the trimmings!! :)

  • bluecar

    After 20 years I still take Boxing day off every year. It was much appreciated when I worked in retail because I would volunteer to take it in return for working Christmas Eve! I still get taken by surprise when things go back to normal so quickly after Christmas day!

  • Mk Ahlsen

    I miss Christmas in Puerto Rico where my mom’s family would roast an entire pig and make rice dishes, plantains, etc. but I do love our more traditional American ham dinners. Both of my parents’ families enjoyed pork in one way or another and all the food is in my opinion delicious. :)

  • Jason Phillips Estrada

    Every Christmas dinner/party I’ve been to has had Egg Nog, but I’ve never seen anyone actually drink it. It’s one of those things you try once because it’s a tradition, but Egg Nog is kind of nasty.

  • http://www.mickisuzanne.com/ Micki Suzanne

    I agree with Lynn from Oklahoma. We Americans know as little about you as you know about us! Understand that traditions WITHIN the U.S. vary by region.

    My family is in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We typically have a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and a very similar meal for Christmas; this year it’s turkey AND ham.

    I don’t know anyone who serves beef at either holiday. Maybe because turkey takes a long time and half the fun is the laughter and conversation that flow freely while the bird cooks.

    The homemade pies are usually pumpkin, lemon meringue and apple, cherry or blueberry. We don’t do cakes any more.

    While my family is far north in deep snow; I’m very far south in sand and sunshine, so we Skype. My son puts his laptop on the counter while cooking and then “gives me a place at the table” as they eat.

    We laugh and talk and I get all the sights and sounds, but I’m sad when I click off. My parents are growing old and my granddaughters are growing up. I miss them all very much.

  • William Landin

    As a Texan, I remember that my dad roasted a turkey for Christmas. I’ve noticed in the last couple of years Boxing Day has been loosely recognized here. I really don’t care about Christmas trees, lights and I dislike Christmas music. I think the only Christmas song I sort of like is the ‘Jingle Bells’ version of the dog barking.

  • Kevin Patrick Anthony Carey Jr

    I’m an American we Eat Turkey on Christmas with Roast beef! In my family we eat turkey on main holidays even Easter!

  • Lynn Michael Rappolt

    I am American and I have never heard of marzipan, have no clue what that is. My family usually makes chocolate fudge every Christmas to go with the deserts. and we quite often have turkey for Christmas dinner sometimes turkey and ham. I am curious about this paper hat business and what is a Christmas cracker?

  • VeryNot

    My English boyfriend says “merry Christmas” and was a bit confused when I asked him why he doesn’t say “happy.” “I dunno. I’ve always said merry!”

    Last year when visiting his parents the day after Christmas, his father seemed absolutely delighted to make me a Christmas pudding, complete with flaming brandy. Everyone else was bored with it by the time I arrived, so he was glad to show off this British tradition to an excited American.

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      Growing up, we always said Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The greetings cards also said that. Perhaps that’s why?

  • Brittany Hensley

    We sell Christmas crackers every year where I work here in America.

  • Alison

    I am a British expat and have lived n the US for over 20 years. Christmas to me is more about the people than anything else. I love traditions from both sides of the Atlantic. So much is widely available in the US. Crackers, mince pies you can get it all. After all. It’s christmas !

  • medusasmeow

    I live in the Southern US. Most of this is true with the exception of, for us, we do turkey at both Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I think this is a personal choice. Turkey and dressing (as we call it in the South) is a holiday staple.

    Also, Christmas crackers weren’t a big thing growing up, but we do them at parties with friends. We have a number of photos of us wearing our paper crowns while opening our gifts. :)

  • Anisa

    Canada is kind of halfway in between these two examples so I get the best of both Christmases which is fairly fantastic :D

  • Krist Martin

    I’d say that you shouldn’t stereotype the whole of the US and their Xmas traditions.

    For example each region in the US has a different name (and race and place of residence) for good ole St. Nick. In the US he is known as: Santa, Santa Clause, St. Nick, St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Father Noel, and “The Big Guy with the Sack”.

    It is still very common to eat Turkey or Duck in the US for Christmas, though ham, corned beef, and chinese delivery food is also very common.

    Desserts range greatly with region, including fig pudding, pecan pie, minced pie, pumpkin pie, crumbles, cakes, and several other foods. Fruit cake, ironically, while much ado has been made about this food, it’s rarely eaten. One interesting dessert not common in the UK but found in most of the Midwest is Snow Ice cream. This is when freshly fallen snow is used much like slushy base and topped with ice cream toppings.

    Merry Christmas is the standard but we also have Happy Christmas, Jovial Xmas, and a Gay Christmas, though this last one was sort of taken over by the LGBTQ community.

    The Christmas Cracker is something I miss, as well as the paper crowns. In the US we do have a fun tradition of fireworks. Both on Xmas and on New Years we shoot them off to celebrate.

    Boxing day is celebrated in the US, but regionally, and it isn’t a federal holiday.

    We do have snowballs, along with egg nog, and an alcoholic cake also called a snowball.

    We also do keep track of the latest xmas renditions and top ten hits on the radio, but the radio isn’t as big a media form in the US as it once was. Most of the time this is done locally rather than on a national scale. You can thank the size of the US for this one.

    Lastly we do have pantomime, but it happens on New Years eve rather than Xmas. It’s when we see Johnny Carson (now in his nineties) and other celebrities (washed up and otherwise) do performances as we count down to the New York Ball Drop.

    • Alex NH

      This doesn’t sound like ANYWHERE in the U.S.

      • Krist Martin

        Are you replying to my post or the original article? If it is my post, well then you’ve probably not lived all over like I have, nor have the many friends I do that live all over.

  • raybear12345

    wow there are so many variations in the American culture for Christmas I really think the author of this piece is missing out. He almost seems to put down the American Christmas. yeah there are differences and I would be open to experiencing an English Christmas. But I say that different is good so bring it all on and Merry Christmas!!

  • mommabunny

    I am an American and we always do themed holiday meals. Be it German food, Asian food, Spanish, Italian, we do our research and try new authentic foods. Next year we are doing UK. Very excited. My mom is very big on experienceing other cultures and it makes for fun and intersting holidays. But I like to think this, not this specifically, but diversity is a big deal in America. There are many traditions and practices right here. So many things differ just from north, to south, from east, to west. We in the south are NOTHING like the folks up north, nor the people over in west. We are a melting pot of culters, traditions, religions, beliefs, and styles.

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  • Christine from NY

    I lived in England about 10 years ago, and at that time I had never heard of the Christmas cracker. They sell them in Target now, here in America. I hate the “shrinking world”…. Think of how boring it will be to travel in the future and everyone is doing the same things your home country does. Differences should be celebrated!

    • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

      I also find it a bit weird for a country to suddenly adopt a tradition from elsewhere for no apparent reason. The American populatiton is no longer primarily of British descent so…..

  • RvclwMom

    Don’t forget about the British tradition of killing off favorite characters from beloved television shows on Christmas! Just kidding (sort of). We started buying Christmas crackers several years ago and now we pull them every Christmas Eve. We love wearing our paper hats and reading out silly jokes! Fortunately there are several companies that import them now and they are easy for us to find. If all else fails and we can’t find them in the store, Amazon will always come through!

  • Mykaela from KY

    We usually have ham for Christmas and leave cookies out for Santa. Daddy does get a Christmas Pudding if he can find one, though. Of course we also watch the Doctor Who special (or like this year the Sherlock mini episode.) Is the Christmas number one like the singer who won in Love Actually? I thought they were just having a late contest.

  • George Peterson

    In South Florida, among the Cuban Community, the main celebration Nocheguena or Christmas Eve. Roast Pork is the main dish, with black beans, rice, yucca, and sweet plaintains (a kind of fried banana).

  • Morgan

    We do have one tradition that isn’t mentioned and that is to go see the Nutcracker ballet. I personally haven’t done this yet, but I do like good British pantomime.

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  • PittScot

    Whoever writes these articles thinks they are such an expert on what goes on in the States! As a duel citizen, the content really makes me laugh!
    I can honestly say, I have never laughed at any American for saying “happy Christmas” (yes, it is said often), nor have I been laughed at for saying it!

  • silentnonrev

    egg nog with dinner? Marzipan or coconut cake for pudding? Never in my 34 years here! And my god, are they still making snowballs? blecchhhhh….next you’ll tell me Babycham is still on the shelves

  • silentnonrev

    …and you can tell the Yanks here by who writes “minceMEAT pies” instead of just “mince pies”

  • PiratesRose

    American here…Christmas desserts in my house have always been homemade cookies– decorated roll-out sugar cookies (you know, the kind that you need cookie cutters to make), mincemeat (yes, really– they’re Dad’s favorite; Grandma always made them), chocolate chip, & oatmeal-cherry (I can’t stand raisins, but I love dried cherries) or various seasonal candies (mostly chocolate). Our main dish has varied over the years… some years it was a pre-ordered lasagna & salad (thank god for Olive Garden); others, like this year, it’s Cuban-style Boliche (chorizo-stuffed eye round roast marinated in mojo) with black beans and yellow rice.

  • kmarie

    We gave up turkey and ham years ago, and most of the stuff mentioned I’ve never heard of or barely so. We have steaks from a local butcher, baked potatoes, chicken wings, barbeque, brunswick stew, red velvet cake, fudge, rocky road, divinity, etc. ~Georgia girl

  • The Ogre

    In my family Xmas dinner has ham and turkey, limpa bread, bond ost, Ligon Berry jelly, rolls , mashed potatoes, green been casserole, sweet potatoes casserole, and honey spiced carrots.Desserts range from a verity of home made cookies to pies or cakes. ( also home made) We sit around and talk and catch up on what happened throughout the year. For most of us this is the only time of the year we see each other. I live in northern Illinois. We don’t need party hats or favors, we just make each other laugh. We always just seem to know just what to say to make each other smile. The T.V. stays off and phones are only used to call family members who could not make it to give directions to someone that got lost along the way.

  • Anita Randall-Packer

    America is a huge country so regional differences are large. In Hawaii it’s not uncommon for there to be Turkey, roast beef, ham and Teriyaki beef at Christmas dinner. Sushi, Sashimi and Poke (another raw fish dish) are also common holiday foods.

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  • Rebah Rose

    Marzipan is really not a thing in most of America. Unless you’re a pastry chef or have spent some time in another country where marzipan is popular.