Nicole Brzozowski is a former TaLK scholar and taught English in Korea from 2012-2015. After teaching in Korea, Nicole returned to the United States to pursue her M. Ed. in Counseling and Development at George Mason University. She graduated in May and now works in Washington, D.C. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys reading, being creative, hiking in the Shenandoah valley, and eating Mac & Cheese, an American staple.
In the United States, Christmas has become a time for communities and families to come together and many Americans travel back to their hometowns to be with their parents during Christmas time. But because of the importance of being with family during the holidays and because of how big and diverse the country is, there is no one way that Americans celebrate Christmas. There are some traditions that have become staples — things that are common for all Americans at Christmas time — but many families and communities will honor their cultural heritage during the holidays. There are many different ways you can spend an American Christmas.
Many American families have European heritage, so many American Christmas traditions come from Europe, such as putting up and decorating Christmas trees, which is a German tradition, or eating a Christmas turkey or Christmas ham, which are British traditions. Many Americans will also decorate the outside of their houses with Christmas lights and ornaments, make Christmas cookies, and exchange gifts with family and friends. These traditions have become staples for many American families, no matter where they're from.
But America is known as a "melting pot" or a "fruit salad" — a nation of immigrants living side by side, each with their own unique cultural heritage. So, when American families come together for Christmas, they often use it as a time to celebrate and honor their own unique cultural heritage. For example, in my home, my father is from New York City and my mother is from Jeonju, South Korea. So, like many American families, we put up a Christmas tree and decorate it every year, but we don't eat a turkey like many Americans do. My mother makes a mixed spread full of American and Korean food. She will make a Christmas ham, but she will also make godeungeo gui and kimchi jeon. In the Southwest, where many Americans have Hispanic heritage, families will make and eat tamales. In Minnesota, where many Americans have Nordic heritage, families will serve lutefisk.
Communities across the United States also come together to celebrate Christmas. Caroling is a popular Christmas tradition, especially in small towns, suburbs, and neighborhoods. Sometimes, this is done for charity. Many communities put up a public display of the birth of Jesus in the manger. Schools across the country put on Christmas themed performances, such as pageants, talent shows, or even Christmas plays, like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. But you will still see different traditions from state to state, based on their history or their landscape. In California, famous for its beaches, the city of Laguna Niguel hosts an annual Surfing Santa competition. In Florida, also known for its beaches and sunshine, some cities decorate lifeguard chairs instead of trees! In Chicago and Philadelphia, two cities with rich German history, they host Christkindlmarkts, or Christmas markets that are modeled after traditional German and Austrian Christmas markets.
Something that has recently become very popular are made-for-tv Christmas movies. These movies are not very good; they are very lighthearted and often romantic, but they are also cheesy and predictable. These movies are so silly that it has become popular to watch and enjoy these made-for-tv movies with family and friends during the holidays. It’s something my family does together every year.
Christmas celebrations look different from state to state, from town to town, from family to family across America. But the most important part of an American Christmas is how you and your family choose to celebrate being together.
So happy holidays, happy new year, and congratulations on all of your hard work this year!