Christmas is one of the most joyous and exciting times to spend in the United States of America. Visitors in the U.S. can soak up the festive atmosphere in the weeks and days leading up to this highly anticipated annual celebration.
Visitors are warmly welcomed to take part in the special events which take place throughout the Christmas period. The day itself, December 25th, is a public holiday in the U.S., in 2020 Christmas Day falls on a Friday.
This article explains some of the most important Christmas traditions and the symbols visitors will spot across the country as the big day approaches. There’s also a guide to the best towns and cities to spend Christmas in America as a tourist.
Before planning a Christmas trip to the states, Chinese passport holders are reminded to apply for a tourist visa and enroll with EVUS.
Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year in the USA, along with Thanksgiving and July 4th, Independence Day. As Christmas approaches, towns and cities are converted into winter wonderlands. Colorful lights adorn the streets and shops and homes are filled with festive decorations.
There are a number of Christmas traditions in the U.S., each has a special significance and is considered a central part of the celebrations.
Visitors in America in December will see Christmas trees decorated with lights, baubles, and colored ribbons or tinsel.
The practice of decorating evergreen fir trees in winter dates back centuries. It was first introduced to North America around 1781 and became common by the early 19th century. The evergreen tree acts as a symbol of life in the depths of winter and a reminder of spring to come.
It has become customary to place an angel or a star on the top of a Christmas tree. These represent either Angel Gabriel, who first appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, or the Star of Bethlehem.
Christmas trees are erected in city centers across the states: New York, Washington D.C, and Chicago all boast particularly impressive trees.
The giving and receiving of gifts has become an integral part of American Christmas traditions. Shops are busier than usual in the run-up to Christmas Day and there is a great atmosphere as people head out to select presents for their loved ones.
Traditionally, gift-giving at Christmas time reminds participants of the gifts that the 3 wise men gave to the baby Jesus. Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were given by the kings to Christ.
In the U.S., gifts are often wrapped and left in large stockings, to be opened on Christmas morning with the rest of the family.
Tourists in the U.S. will be able to pick up gifts for friends and family, shops remain open right up until Christmas day itself to allow for last-minute purchases.
Santa Claus first appeared in the U.S. in the late 18th century when a group of Dutch families gathered in New York to mark the death of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.
By the early 1800s, stores were using a depiction of Santa Claus in their Christmas advertisements, with life-size models and later ‘real’ Santas following later that century.
American children eagerly await the arrival of Father Christmas, often writing letters to him to request certain gifts and ensure him that they have behaved well all year. Santa is said to travel from home to home on a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer, leaving presents for kids as they sleep.
Families traveling in the U.S. with children can visit Santa at his home in North Pole, a small festive city in Alaska.
Millions of Americans attend church on Christmas Eve (December 24th), typically in the evening. Christmas Eve services include favorite Christmas carols including “Silent Night” and “Good King Wenceslas”.
Such carols can also be heard on the streets as people gather in groups to sing the festive religious songs.
On Christmas Day itself, some go to Church in the morning whilst others stay at home with their families. Christians from overseas will be welcomed to attend Christmas church services.
Food has a central role in Christmas celebration across the world. Different U.S. states have their own festive foods, but some of the staples found on many Christmas dinner tables include:
Pumpkin or apple pie is common for dessert, other festive sweet treats include candy canes, Christmas fruit cake, and gingerbread.
Although Americans often eat Christmas lunch at home with their families, several restaurants do open so tourists can enjoy a traditional Christmas feast whilst on vacation.
Similarly, fast-food diners and eateries offering international cuisine open offering visitors plenty of options. Many restaurants in America’s Chinatowns also open for business on December 25th.
Christmas is celebrated throughout the United States. Travelers with a U.S. tourist visa can spend the entire Christmas period in the States and visit several cities, or choose just one place to spend a few festive days. Visitors who opt one of the following cities are treated to the biggest events and brightest decorations:
The Big Apple is a very popular place to spend Christmas in the U.S. One of the most important events of the season is the lighting of the huge Rockefeller Center Christmas tree at the beginning of December.
There is a ceremony before the event which is also broadcast on live TV during which a famous singer performs.
Several ice skating rinks are put in place across New York for the festive period, including in Central Park and at the Rockefeller Center. Large department stores create elaborate Christmas window displays that are well worth seeing.
Leavenworth, a city in Washington, is considered by many to be the perfect place to spend Christmas in the U.S. Over half a million lights are switched on during the annual Christmas Lighting Festival. Hot mulled wine and cider are sold in the streets and concerts are held.
Sleigh rides through the forests and sledding are popular activities as the city is covered in snow at this time of the year.
Tourists can pick up original souvenirs at the Christmas market, a huge Bavarian-style market with stalls selling everything from traditional food to arts and crafts.
This town on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC, is called McAdenville for most of the year, changing it to Christmas Town USA in December.
With close to 400 Christmas trees and half a million lights, the town certainly lives up to its festive name.
Travelers in Christmas Town USA in late November can take part in the annual lighting ceremony. Another special event is the Yule Log ceremony, children pull a yule log on a sleigh to an open fireplace in the evening, fun and entertainment continue into the night.