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The office Christmas party is another common tradition in the past 20 years or so, and is usually an excuse for people you work with to get tipsy and act inappropriately.
You don't see this as much anymore, but I remember it from when I was a kid, when people from the neighborhood would go around house to house singing Christmas carols.
Decorating your house, yard and fences with enough lights to cause rolling blackouts in your state, as long as you make sure your display is better than your neighbors
We (meaning my wife) always bakes a bunch of cookies and goodies and then distributes plates around the neighborhood and to our mailman, garbageman, etc.
How about new traditions that have popped up in the past few years due to economic issues? Many families that I know have been drawing names from a hat instead of buying for everyone in the family. A few families have even instituted "present-free" Christmas to reduce the stress of gift-giving and help family members enjoy the holiday more. My own family has been "making" Christmas out of common household items for years. I still vividly remember the year we had a Christmas "snowball" fight with rolled up tube-socks!
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I don't think there is a single UK Christmas custom or US Christmas custom. Both nations comprise various regions, and each region has its own customs.
I can speak for customs of the American South, but more specifically of the mid-South (there are many Southern customs!).
Of course, we have family get-togethers, Christmas cards, stockings, trees, wreaths, Santa, and the rest. Here's what makes Tennessee Christmases different:
- There is very rarely snow, so none of that is a part of Christmas here.
- Christmas dinner most often includes ham instead of turkey. If we do have turkey, we don't have "stuffing." Instead, we have cornbread dressing made with lots of sage.
- A Tennessee Tipsy Cake is a favorite dessert. It's a pound cake soaked in whiskey.
- If you're a churchgoer, you'll attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service, usually at midnight.
- If you live near Nashville, your tradition includes viewing the lights at the Opryland Hotel.
- If you live in Wilson County, your tradition includes the lights on Hwy. 109.
- Many men wear camo all month whether they hunt or not.
- Christmas trees are usually cedar instead of pine.
- A big bowl of mixed nuts and navel oranges is on most coffee tables.
- Chocolate drops are found in abundance.
I'm sure there are many, many more customs/traditions.
And I can answer for UK ( England/Ireland)
Christmas really begins on 1st Dec. Most children get an Advent calendar which has twenty four windows to open before the big day with chocolate candy inside.
Many of us go to traditional 'Midnight Mass' which is exciting for the kids as they dont usually get to go to a dark candle-lit church at midnight very often. The ancient type of church looks particularly picturesque with its leaded windows decorated with candles and dark green holly boughs. There is usually a crib which has been gradually put together by the children on Christingle afternoon at the beginning of Lent. The exciting thing is that there is no baby Jesus in his crib ...yet!
Most families open their presents under the tree on Christmas morning -often one person/one present at a time which can take all morning! Then there is a roast turkey (and we have crackers to pull with tiny gifts inside and paper hats to put on while eating dinner as the kids like the adults to looks silly! as this is 'fun!'
Victorian Dickensian Christmas:
I'll answer this for the US, hopefully someone else will know about the UK.
For the US, traditions include:
- Gift giving and opening. Some people open gifts on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas morning. I'm told that the Christmas Eve tradition is of German origin.
- Christmas trees decorated with lights and ornaments
- Family get-togethers
- Singing of Christmas songs. Many people used to go from house to house singing songs but this does not happen much anymore. Youth groups will sometimes do this and will sometimes go to retirement homes and sing there
- Hanging of stockings by a fireplace for Santa Claus to put presents in
- Many families leave a snack for Santa Claus by the fireplace as well
- Decoration of the outside of your house -- usually with lights, but there are getting to be more kinds of decorations that people put up in yards now, like inflatable snowmen or reindeer made of lights
- Christmas parties at workplaces
I'm sure there are many more I'm not thinking of.
For English kids, Christmas is the time to have fun with family and friends and recieve gifts from Father Christmas, a Santa Claus-like figure, who is pictured as wearing a long red or green robe. This lover of children is said to leave presents for them in their stockings(or pillowcases that they hang at the end of their bed) on Christmas Eve. The gifts are usually opened on Christmas Day, though not until afternoon.
Christmas music and carols are pretty much the same as in the U.S. Most Christmas carols did originate in Europe though.
In England the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, named so because young boys used to go go around on this day collecting money in clay boxes. The boxes were smashed open, when they were full.
Michael - CA - http://thebestchristmassongs.com
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