The holiday season in the United States is a time like no other. As soon as Thanksgiving ends, the country rushes to prepare for the winter holidays. From Christmas movies to extravagant decorations, people stop at nothing to get in the holiday spirit. Here are 10 of our favorite holiday traditions!
1. Decorate the tree
Whether you get a real tree or a fake one, creating a perfect tree is a classic Christmas activity. Complete with lights, tinsel, baubles and ornaments, Christmas trees are one of the most traditional symbols of the holiday season. Put on some holiday music and gather your family and friends to “deck the halls” as you decorate your tree and get in the Christmas spirit.
2. Bake Christmas cookies
The holiday season is a time to indulge! A favorite tradition in the US is baking and decorating Christmas cookies. It’s typical to use cookie cutters to make sugar cookie dough into holiday shapes like trees, stars, or wreaths. Once the cookies are baked, go crazy with red and green icing and sprinkles to really highlight the holiday season.
3. Write a letter to Santa (and the reindeer!)
In the US, tradition holds that Santa Claus travels all over the world on Christmas eve to deliver presents to children everywhere. Guided by his trusty team of flying reindeer (most famously, Rudolph), Santa’s sleigh traverses the entire globe all in one night. Many children write letters to Santa to ask for special gifts. The night before Christmas, families leave out letters and cookies for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. After all, Santa and his team must get hungry with all that traveling!
4. Look at the twinkly lights
During the holiday season, homes across the US are transformed into winter wonderlands. Filled with twinkling lights, nativity scenes, Santa figurines and so much more, it’s incredible to look at all the holiday displays. A popular tradition is to walk or drive around the neighborhood to admire all the beautiful decorations. Some neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles, like Dyker Heights in Brooklyn or Candy Cane Lane in LA, truly pull out all the stops!
5. Build a gingerbread house
Gingerbread is a food that doesn’t get much recognition outside the holiday season. But, it shines bright as the star of an important tradition: building gingerbread houses! You can make your own gingerbread from scratch, or buy a kit at the grocery store to make things a little easier. Put your house together and cover it with icing, sprinkles, and gumdrops. You’ll end up with a gorgeous creation that tastes good, too!
6. Sing Christmas carols
The holiday songbook has practically endless amounts of Christmas songs, both classic and modern. In the US, the age-old holiday tradition of caroling is still done today, although it might not be as popular. But, if you’re in the mood to spread some holiday cheer, round up some musical friends and go door-to-door in your neighborhood, singing your favorite carols.
7. Exchange gifts
Giving gifts is a fun and thoughtful way to celebrate the people you love during the holiday season. There are a variety of popular gift exchanges, like “Secret Santa” or the silly tradition of “white elephant.” For Secret Santa, people each choose a name at random and secretly buy gifts for whoever they’ve chosen. It’s always fun to guess who your Secret Santa is when you receive your gift!
8. Wear an ugly sweater
Dressing up for holiday parties is one of the best parts of the season. It’s fun to don your very best, complete with sequins and sparkles, hopefully. But, it can be even more fun to show up wearing a hallmark “ugly” Christmas sweater, complete with a silly saying or antiquated embroidery. Hunt for the perfect hideous knit at a thrift store, find one with a festive phrase online, or make your own. Extra points for garland and flashing lights!
9. Watch Christmas movies
When the weather outside is frightful, the best thing to do is settle in with a blanket, a cup of hot cocoa and your favorite Christmas movies. From timeless classics like It’s A Wonderful Life to the hilarious journey of Buddy in Elf, there are so many holiday movies worth watching. Many TV channels even have countdowns to Christmas with a different movie every night. Here are some of our top movie picks for the holiday season – and they’re great to practice English with, too!
10. Spend time with the people you love
Holiday traditions are the most fun when done with cherished friends and family. Whether baking cookies or caroling, decorating the tree or snuggling up on the couch with a classic holiday movie, being surrounded by your favorite people makes everything better. No matter what holidays you choose to celebrate, the season is a time to give thanks, reflect on the past year, and spend time with loved ones.