Do American and British people celebrate Christmas in the same way?

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While the two countries share many holiday spirited traditions such as decorating the house with a Christmas tree, family gatherings on Christmas Day, singing Christmas carols and gift giving, there ARE some important differences. Let’s take a look at the different traditions in the USA and the UK:

  • SANTA or FATHER CHRISTMAS?? The jolly man in a red suit in America is called Santa Claus or simply “Santa”, while the British call him Father Christmas.  Americans believe he lives with Mrs. Claus, his reindeer and their many helpers in the North Pole while the English claim he and his crew live in Lapland.
  • In America the greeting is MERRY CHRISTMAS while in the UK most say HAPPY CHRISTMAS
  • WHAT’S SERVED AT THE TABLE is also quite different. In Britain most families will serve turkey as the main dish of their Christmas day meal. Because Americans have just eaten turkey on Thanksgiving in late November they tend to serve ham or roast beef. Following the big holiday meal desserts such as apple pie or pecan pie are traditional in the US, while in Britain virtually every table has Christmas pudding or Christmas cake, both made with dried fruits and liquor.
  • DRINKS! While many people in both countries drink wine at Christmas, a typical American holiday drink which is almost unheard of in the UK is eggnog, a rich, creamy drink made with cream, milk, sugar and eggs and sometimes served with liquor.  Mulled wine is a tradition in the UK: it’s a warm red wine with spices such as cinnamon, cloves and fruit.
  • After the Christmas meal the British have a fun tradition of pulling Crackers. They are colorfully wrapped tubes of cardboard that two people pull, the one with the bigger piece keeps what’s inside, which is normally a paper crown or small plastic toy.  Americans’ only idea of “crackers” are salty snacks.
  • In Britain the party continues on the 26th of December.  Boxing Day is another holiday for friends and family to celebrate. Most Americans go back to work on December 26th.
  • If there is one esthetic difference between the USA and the UK at this time of year it is the incredible amount of Christmas lights hung in America. Many homes are decked out with extravagant light displays and Christmas scenes. Entire neighborhoods are blinking and flashing so much that people drive from other cities and towns to see the show.

Holiday CHEER is definitely found in both countries…. so HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

* This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)