Americans widely observe other holidays which stem from traditions older than those of the United States. One is Easter, the Christian feast of the Resurrection of Jesus. Easter always falls on a Sunday. For most Americans, it is a day of worship and a gathering of the family. Many follow old traditions such as the dyeing of hard-boiled eggs and the giving of gifts of candy eggs, rabbits and chicks for the children. Many households organize Easter egg hunts, in which children look for dyed eggs hidden around the house or yard or in a park. The President of the United States even has an annual Easter egg hunt on the lawn of the White House the day after Easter, known as "Easter Monday."
The other holidays stemming from old traditions are Christmas Day, December
25, and New Year's Day, January 1. The American traditions of those days are
generally the same as those in other nations which observe them—but those who
live in such nations may notice at least some differences.
Christmas is a most important religious holy day for Christians, who attend
special church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Because it
is a religious holy day, it is not an official holiday. However, since most
Americans are Christian, the day is one on which most businesses are closed and
the greatest possible number of workers, including government employees, have
the day off. Many places of business even close early on the day before
Christmas. When Christmas falls on a Sunday, the next day is also a holiday.
Naturally Christians observe Christmas according to the traditions of their
particular church. Besides the strictly religious traditions, however, other
common Christmas practices are observed by people who are not religious or who
are not Christian. In this way, some Christmas traditions have become American
traditions. Among them:
Gift-giving is so common at Christmas time that for most stores it means a
in sales. Stores, in fact, are full of shoppers from
Thanksgiving time in late November until the day before Christmas. This
situation has caused many religious people to complain that the religious
meaning of Christmas is being subverted, that Christmas has become "commercial."
Despite the criticism, Christmas shopping is a major activity of many Americans
in the month of December. Gifts are given to children, members of the family and
close friends. They are given to people who have done favors for others or who
work for them. Some people bake cookies or make candies or other special food
treats for friends and neighbors. Many businesses give their
Christmas "bonus"—gifts of extra money—to show appreciation for their work.
Christmas is also a time when most Americans show great generosity to others
less fortunate than they. They send money to hospitals or orphanages or
contribute to funds that help the
Most Americans send greeting cards to their friends and family at Christmas
people who are friends or relatives and live great distances from
each other may not be much in contact with each other during the year—but will
usually exchange greeting cards and often a Christmas letter telling their
Santa Claus is a mythical man who is said to live at the North Pole, where he
throughout the year. The Santa Claus character is derived from
age-old stories about an early Christian saint named Nicholas, known for his
giving of gifts. Santa Claus, pictured as a cheerful fat man with long white
beard and dressed in a red suit, supposedly visits the home of good children on
the night before Christmas and leaves them gifts. Very young American children
look forward eagerly to Christmas morning, when they find gifts he has left
The decorating of homes for Christmas is very common. Most Americans who
Christmas have a Christmas tree in their homes. This may be a real
evergreen tree or an artificial one. In either case, the tree is decorated and
trimmed with small lights and ornaments. Other decorations such as lights and
wreaths of evergreen and signs wishing people a "Merry Christmas" can be found
inside and outside of many homes.
A Christmas dinner, often with turkey on the menu, for family and friends is
also an American tradition; so are parties for friends, family and co-workers.
Besides the Christmas
dinner, many people hold other gala get-togethers just
before and just after Christmas.
Although New Year's Day is also a Christian holy day, it has a long secular
tradition which makes it a holiday for all Americans. Most of the celebrating of
the holiday takes place the night before, when Americans gather in homes or in
restaurants or other public places to enjoy food and beverages and to wish each
other a happy and prosperous year ahead. Balloons and paper streamers and horns
and other noisemakers are all around at midnight when the old year passes away
and the new year arrives. One of the more colorful and unusual observances of
New Year's Day takes place in Philadelphia, where large groups of people wearing
unusual costumes parade through the city with bands.