From elaborate Christmas light displays to authentic German markets, people around the country celebrate Christmas in their own unique ways. Even Santa Clause takes a different form depending on where you’re celebrating. Old Saint Nick, Santa Clause, Kanakaloka (Hawaii), and Papa Noel (Cajuns) are one and the same.
Another regional holiday practice is Mumming. One place you can observe a Mumming celebration is in Philadelphia on New Year’s Day during the six-hour plus Mummer’s Day parade. Clubs dress in elaborate costumes and take to the streets to perform in a variety of categories (Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades) which are then judged.
As you move into the Southwest region of the country, you start to see customs similar to those of parts of Mexico. These traditions include Christmas tamales for dinner and luminarias, traditional paper sacks weighted down with sand and a candle. Luminarias, also known as farolitos, are placed on the edges of pathways to symbolize lighting the way to somewhere for Mary and Joseph to stay.
From the Southwest, we move over to Cajun Country, aka Louisiana, where there is a rich history of blended cultures. One of the most prevalent cultures to leave its mark on the state was the French. Now, on Christmas Eve, families in small communities along the Mississippi River will light bonfires along the levees to help Papa Noel find his way to the homes of all the children.
Swedish Americans hold St. Lucia festivals, and in Puerto Rico there are parrandas. Similar to what some call caroling, the practice of parrandas is where friends go from one house to the next singing traditional songs, “surprising” their friends and family by waking them with their music.
In addition to the unique and special regional traditions, some special holidays and practices are observed on a more national level. These include the holidays of the African-American Kwanzaa and the Jewish Hanukkah but also Christmas light displays, nativity scenes, reading the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ, exchanging of gifts, leaving out milk and cookies for Santa, popcorn garland around a Christmas tree, the Christmas pickle, and many, many more.
How do you and yours celebrate the holidays?