Christmas in America

Do you want to impress your loved ones under the Christmas tree with your knowledge about the American holiday season? This article will provide you with all the essential information as well as some fun facts about Christmas in the USA.

The time before Christmas

US citizens are eagerly awaiting the holidays weeks before the event: with lavish decorations, hearty food, and, of course, the American's favorite hobby during Christmas time, Christmas shopping. Of course, they remain true to their all-time favorite motto – BIGGER IS BETTER!

Christmas decorations in the USA

Since people in the USA usually prefer to go big, glittering lights not only illuminate busy streets and shopping malls. Houses and front-yards are sometimes transformed into true Christmas wonder worlds full of flashing lights, artificial snow, Santa Clauses, and reindeer sleighs. The biggest Christmas lovers among the Americans even pay electricity bills of several thousand dollars for their passion.

Christmas traditions in the USA

The joy of decorating does not stop at the doorstep but also brings a festive atmosphere to the interior of American homes. The Christmas tree is the centerpiece, of course. “Elf on the shelf," an about 20 cm tall flexible doll, is very popular with families: the little fellow moves into American living rooms at the end of November to observe and report to Santa Claus whether the children are well-behaved.

American Christmas movies

When it's cold outside and the lights of the Christmas tree flicker inside, many Americans like to make themselves comfortable on the sofa and watch one of the traditional Christmas movies on TV. Classics such as Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (1938), "It's a Wonderful Life" (1938) or "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) are as much a part of an American holiday season as humorous comedies such as "The Grinch" (2000), "Home Alone" (1990), "Elf" (2003) or National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" (1989).

American Christmas songs

Of course, the holiday season also includes Christmas sounds. Popular songs like "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey, or "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee can be heard all December long, from the morning drive to work to shopping in the evening. By the way, the best-selling Christmas song of all time is Bing Crosby's White Christmas, which has sold over 50 million copies worldwide since 1947.

Tip: Do you really want to get into the Christmas spirit? Then listen to our extensive X-mas playlist made up of the 100 best American Christmas songs of all times!

Christmas markets in the USA

Shining lights and the scent of mulled wine - a visit to the Christmas market is a particularly pleasant way to get into a festive mood. The tradition of Christmas markets, which originated in the German-speaking part of Europe, is becoming increasingly popular in the USA as well.

Christmas market in the USA

In many American cities, you can shop for presents at Christmas markets and, at the same time, warm yourself up with a hot drink. Among the most beautiful Christmas markets in the USA are:

Christmas in New York City

America's best-known Christmas decorations attract around 125 million people to the Rockefeller Center in New York City every year. Ever since construction workers at Rockefeller Center first put up a small, decorated tree on their building site in 1931, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has become indispensable. Today, New York's most iconic Christmas highlight measures a whopping 20 to 30 m and is adorned with more than 25,000 sparkling lights and Swarovski crystals.

A breathtaking Christmas world opens up around the tree every year, including XXL decorations, the famous ice skating arena "Rockefeller Rink," and lots of festively decorated stores that will put you in the right mood to buy gifts for your loved ones.

And if you're ever in New York City at Christmas time, be sure to take time for a photo tour in the Dyker Heights neighborhood, where the city's most opulent decorations wait for you!

-> Find the perfect tour to Dyker Heights here

Discover more

Sightseeing, shopping, events, tours, restaurants – do you want more tips for your New York trip during the holiday season? Then check out our extensive guide to Christmas in New York City!

Christmas towns in America

All of this is not festive enough for you? You can always get more! Some American cities have turned into true Christmas towns where you'll feel like you've stepped through a magical portal and come out inside a snow globe ...

Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth, a snowy town of 2,000 residents in the North East of the United States proudly calls itself the most Christmassy place in America. To attract more tourists, the city decided in the 1960s to remodel itself in the style of a "typical" Bavarian mountain village richly decorated with lights and lametta.

-> Discover Leavenworth on this day tour

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, the island of tranquility in the state of Michigan, will certainly make you dream. If you get off the ferry here during the holiday season, you can celebrate as you did 100 years ago – including a horse-drawn carriage ride, a visit by Santa Claus, and a lot of nostalgia.

North Pole, Alaska

In the city of North Pole in the state of Alaska, you can drive on roads like Criss Cringle Drive, Mistletoe Lane, or Santa Claus Lane. The annual ice sculpture contest attracts artists from all over the world to create their fleeting masterpieces from ice.

-> Discover Fairbanks and North Pole on this sightseeing tour

McAdenville, North Carolina

The Christmas capital of the Southern states! About half a million lights illuminate the lavishly decorated suburb of Charlotte in North Carolina every year.

Durango, Colorado

You always wanted to know where the Polar Express departs? In the winter sports mecca of Durango, where real steam locomotives from the 1920s still drive through the snowy landscape!

-> Book your trip through Durango here

Breckenridge, Colorado

The fact that the Centennial State of Colorado has a lot to offer when it comes to Christmas is also proven by the town of Beckenridge, where thousands of costumed athletes take part in the traditional Santa Claus run every year.

-> Discover more of Breckenridge on this mountain tour

Park City, Utah

The life-size gingerbread house, which you can admire during the annual parade through Park City in Utah, is worth a sweet sin. Afterwards, you can head straight for the ski slopes of the winter sports resort.

The Christmas celebration in the USA

In the United States, as all over the world, the holiday season brings the family together. Everyone enjoys a Christmas dinner together, listens to festive music, and gives each other gifts. What is different about Christmas in America? Here is a short overview:

Santa Claus, Rudolph and Co.

The person responsible for gifts in America is Santa Claus. On the night from December 24th to 25th, he comes flying with his reindeer sleigh, slides through the chimney, and loads the Christmassy-decorated living room with presents.

A nice story, but where do American Christmas legends actually come from? That is behind the stories of the different characters:

Santa Claus

Did Coca-Cola invent Santa Claus? Yes and no, the Santa Claus legend has its origin in Turkey, more precisely in the figure of St. Nicholas. The story was brought to America by Dutch immigrants and gained popularity through the stories of author Washington Irving. In the 1930s, the Coca-Cola brand shaped today's characteristic look of Santa Claus: friendly features, white beard, and red clothing.


Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was invented in 1938 by the department store Montgomery Ward as a marketing trick to get children to buy coloring books. An advertiser invented Rudolph for a painting-book Christmas story, which the department store wanted to give away for promotion.

The other reindeers

The eight reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh together with Rudolph got their names from a poem written by Clement Moore. They are called Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Duner, and Blixem (who later became Donder and Blitzen).

Christmas cards

In the United States, it is a wonderful tradition to send greeting cards to family and friends. Many Americans also take an annual Christmas photo of the whole family and print it on a personalized Christmas greeting card. Between Thanksgiving and New Year alone, the U.S. Postal Service delivers approximately 15 billion letters and cards, plus some 910 million parcels.

By the way, children can write to Santa Claus before the feast and tell him their Christmas wishes by sending a letter to the postal code H0H0H0. The letters are even answered by employees of the Canadian postal service.

Christmas dinner

The traditional Christmas dinner in the USA is served with dishes similar to those of the Thanksgiving feast. Traditional dishes like turkey, baked ham, and all kinds of side dishes fill the stomachs of an American Christmas party. Afterwards you can indulge in cookies, cakes, and desserts, as well as American sweets and candy. Americans also love eggnog, a drink prepared with rum, brandy, or whiskey.

Christmas dinner in the USA


In the United States, people gather on December 24th in church or for dinner in convivial company. However, they really get going with their Christmas party only on December 25th. On the morning of the traditional Christmas Day, everyone goes together to unwrap presents.

Another American tradition is for children to hang socks by the fireplace, which they will find stuffed with sweets and small gifts on Christmas Day. As a small token of appreciation for his efforts during Christmas night, milk and cookies are placed near the fireplace for Santa Claus in return.

You can't get enough gifts? Here are a few interesting facts about them:

  • Christmas presents symbolize the gifts that Jesus received from the three Wise Men.
  • The biggest Christmas gift ever weighs 225 tons and stands in the port of New York today. The Statue of Liberty was given to the Americans by the French on Christmas 1886.
  • The best-selling toy of the 1980s was the Rubik's Cube.
  • According to data from the National Retail Federation, American consumers spent about $ 887 billion on holiday gifts in 2021, which is about $ 2,700 per capita. The most popular gifts included clothing, accessories, sports equipment, furniture, decorative items as well as household and electronic appliances.

If you are in need of a sporty Christmas gift, check out our sports merchandise partner Fanatics.

Christmas in America: fun facts & records

You just can't get enough of Christmas? Here are a few interesting facts about the holiday season:

  • The first Christmas celebration ever was held in Rome on December 25th, 336 AD.
  • Although Christians from all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas, December 25th is not mentioned in the Bible as his date of birth. Historians believe that Christmas was merged with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which honored the farming god Saturn with celebrations and gifts.
  • The first White House Christmas tree was decorated during the presidency of Franklin Pierce.
  • It was not until 1870 that Christmas was declared a public holiday in the United States.
  • The spelling "X-mas" for Christmas goes back to a Greek abbreviation. The X or cross is a symbol for the word Christ.
  • Kissing under the mistletoe is associated with Frigga, the Nordic goddess of love, whose sacred plant was mistletoe.
  • In Hawaii, Santa Claus is called Kanakaloka. And if a Hawaiian greets you with the words "Mele Kalikimaka," he wishes you a Merry Christmas.
  • According to Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a Douglas fir of more than 67 m in height, which was set up in the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle in 1950.
  • Christmas haters all over the world can identify with him: the bright green, always bad-tempered Grinch. The plot is based on Theodor Seuss Geisel's novel "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" from 1957. However, the wacky character became world-famous through the fantasy comedy from 2000 with Jim Carrey.

We wish you a merry and relaxing Christmas!

Green Card CheckAre you eligible?