Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas in Unites States of America

True to the spirit of the cultural melting pot America is a large country with a huge diversity of customs and traditions within it. This diversity of culture is reflected in the celebration of Christmas as well. Though after so many years of coexistence all of them have gained a flavour which is uniquely American, but a little closer look will divulge their diverging roots.
As far as the celebration of Christmas goes, a strong British orientation is found in most of them. Meanwhile, other communities settled in America have kept their own traditions as well.
Father Christmas became Santa Claus in America. And the Americans have really tried to confine a wandering Santa by building homes for him. There is one in Torrington, Connecticut. Located in a Christmas village this place houses real life Santa. There Santa gives out presents along with his elves.
In Wilmington, New York, on the side of Whiteface Mountain, a man called Arto Monaco designed a permanent home for Santa Claus. It has a blacksmith instead of the reindeer, a chapel, and a post office. Around 100,000 people visit the village every year.

There is also a town called Santa Claus. All the letters which are posted in America addressed to Santa go there to be dealt with. An average of three million a year are posted to Santa in America. A twenty-three foot colored statue stands in Santa's honor.

In 1924, the first national living Christmas tree was planted in Washington, D. C. Since then every year the President of the United States ceremonially turns on the lights.

In the South, the custom has been to celebrate noisily with fireworks and the shooting of firearms. Early settlers had sent greetings to their distant neighbors in this way. It was thought to also frighten off evil spirits and spread to Hawaii and the Philippines.

In Alaska ‘going round with star' is a feature of the season. Boys and girls with lanterns on poles carry a large figure of a star, covered with bright colored paper, from door to door. They sing carols and are welcomed in for refreshments. On the next night another party of boys and girls, dressed as Herod's men, try to destroy the infant Jesus.

In New Mexico, semi-nomadic Navajo have a ‘big feed' at ‘Kismus' given by friends of the native American people. Meat, beans, potatoes and onions are boiled in huge iron pots over campfires. Coffee with donuts, bread and buns complete the menu. In other parts of New Mexico, luminaires are placed along the streets and on flat roof tops. These candles in paper bags filled with sand, ‘light the way for the Christ Child'.

Polish Americans keep up their homeland customs. They spread hay on the floor and under the tablecloth to remind them of an inn or the stable and manger. No meat is eaten on Christmas Eve during the day, but in the evening when the first star appears the fast of Wigiliais over. Beetroot soup, various fish, cabbage, mushrooms and sweetmeats made from honey and poppy seeds are features of the meal. An oblong wafer called an oplatek is given out by the head of the house. It has the Nativity scene imprinted on it. As the family and guests recall the birth of Jesus and wish each other a happiness in the coming year, they break off a piece of the oplatek. An extra place is set at the table in case Mary and the child Christ should come by seeking shelter.

Hungarian Americans place greater emphasis on church services and carol-singing on Christmas Eve and Day than many fellow Americans. They gather around their tree on Christmas Eve and presents are handed out at the appearance of the first star of the evening. After the presents, seasonal foods are baked, rolls of walnut and poppy seed, dumplings with honey and poppy seed, and biscuits with caraway, sesame, or aniseed.

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