US Christmas Traditions by State
In Alabama Christmas trees are often used to offer gifts as they were in antebellum days. Children wake up to small toys and treats such as fruit and nuts tucked among the branches. A traditional dinner is a whole roasted pig.
Christmas in Arizona includes a Mexican ritual referred to as Las Posadas. This is a procession and traveling play representing Mary and Joseph searching for room at the inn. Families play the roles and visit each other to reenact the drama.
In Alaska, a pole is adorned with a decorative star and brought from house to house by children who sing carols to those that open the doors. Other children, representing Herod's Men, follow the star and try to capture it.
In California the Christmas season is celebrated with boat parades in the harbors. Boats are decorated and lit up like floats in a traditional parade and create nighttime processions through the water, passing houses that are likewise decorated and lit.
In Connecticut children are welcomed to mark the Christmas season by visiting Santa, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and even the reindeer in Torrington, where a Christmas village was established in 1947 and still attracts families for a day of exploring and holiday fun.
In Colorado an enormous star made of lights is placed high on a prominent mountain in honor of the star of Bethlehem. This star can be seen for many miles all around and welcomes visitors and residents for the Christmas season.
During the Christmas season in Delaware families take walking tours of the most historic areas, viewing the homes and public buildings that date back as far as the 18th and 19th centuries decorated in festive holiday splendor.
In Florida many families decorate the palm trees that grace their lawns and go to the beach for celebratory bonfires and seafood meals. Because the weather is often warm, many dinners are held outside so children can play with new toys.
In Georgia the Christmas season is often marked with women creating baskets of homemade goodies such as cookies, breads, jams, jellies, and fudge to offer neighbors and family members. Toy and clothing drives collect gifts for less fortunate children and adults.
In Hawaii residents send distant friends and relatives Christmas greetings by shooting fireworks and guns across the sky. Here Santa Claus arrives by boat rather than in a sleigh with reindeer and the traditional Christmas dinner is enjoyed outside.
In Illinois the Christmas season officially begins on the last Friday of November with an enormous Christmas tree is illuminated in the center of Chicago. This tree is actually created with more than 130 smaller Balsam Fir trees.
In Idaho the season is merry and bright when the Holiday Light Show begins, offering more than a million lights twinkling and sparkling along the water at one of the state's most popular resorts. Cruise boats add animation and popular scenes.
In Indiana families come together on Christmas evening for a long, elaborate feast. This meal features roast turkey or goose, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and sauces, and is generally followed by a traditional Christmas pudding and pumpkin pie.
In Iowa Christmas decorations are often created from natural evergreen trimmings and holly boughs. Families will collect these and then create wreaths, garlands, and other decorative elements that are placed around the home for beauty and the wonderful fragrance.
In Kentucky, Christmas is about celebrating with friends and family and gathering together to enjoy the holiday spirit. Children are delighted by visiting reindeer and riding holiday trains at Christmas festivals while local artisans sell unique gifts to eager shoppers.
In the famous city of New Orleans during the Christmas season a huge ox is decorated with holly and festive ribbons are tied to his horns. The animal is then walked along the streets while the people celebrate around him.
In Maryland families gather together for a sumptuous Christmas Eve feast featuring a wide variety of seafood, especially crab. Seasonal sand sculptures are set in the center of town along with a huge Christmas tree.
In Montana Christmas celebrations often take the form of open houses. Families decorate their homes in holiday splendor, lay out spreads of delicious savory foods and desserts and welcome guests to come in, enjoy music and socializing, and exchange small gifts.
In Michigan lighting displays are taken to serious levels with entire homes covered in twinkling lights. Revelers also take advantage of the snowy conditions to enjoy days filled with sledding, snowmobiling, and creating snowman displays.
In Missouri the Christmas season is about connecting with friends and family while enjoying traditional, old-fashioned activities such as baking, decorating homes, and hosting open house parties. Traditional foods include goose, turkey, and gingerbread.
In Minnesota Christmas comes alive with brilliant parades and shows that feature performers dressed as storybook characters, musical groups, and elaborate lighted floats. Over a million lights glow over the celebration every year as residents prepare for the winter weather.
In Massachusetts at Christmas caroling is an extremely popular activity. Groups of friends and family gather together, often dressing in Colonial or Victorian clothes, and travel on foot singing carols. The singing is generally accompanied by the playing of hand bells.
In Maine the Christmas season welcomes friends and families to get out of the often bitterly cold weather and enjoy traditional pageants and parties. Lobster stew is a popular seasonal food along with spiced punch, clam chowder, and mincemeat pies.
In Mississippi part of Christmas celebrations is often the gathering around a roaring fire - either in the fireplace or an outdoor bonfire - and telling ghost stories. One of the most common stories is that of "A Christmas Carol" in which three ghosts visit.
In New York, a Christmas celebration is often centered on the beautiful sparkling light and decoration displays that fill the city. Those outside of the city welcome the season with hot apple cider, eggnog, and dinners of roast goose and turkey.
In New Jersey families mark the Christmas season with pageants and parades. Children often put on plays that depict the nativity or more secular Christmas imagery featuring carols, dancing, and the story of Santa Claus and the North Pole.
In the oldest neighborhoods of New Hampshire the Christmas season finds the windows glowing with candles and festive decorations, usually of live Balsam trimmings, while inside residents warm spices, orange peels, and apple slices to fill their homes with seasonal scents.
Christmas shopping in New Mexico often features browsing through art galleries enjoying seasonal displays, wine tastings, and special traveling meals. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day friends and family often attend concerts and enjoy Mexican-inspired foods.
In North Carolina women bake dozens of Christmas cookies and gather together for "cookie swaps". These evenings are filled with socialization and enjoying traditional foods while each woman is able to collect several cookies of each different recipe that was brought.
In North Dakota the men of families often go hunting for the meats that will be eaten for Christmas dinner while the women create homemade decorations and gifts. Children often participate in the making of decorations such as stringing popcorn and making ornaments.
In Nevada families get into the holiday spirit by attending the Christmas fair. Here they buy handcrafted and unusual gifts and decorations, enjoy seasonal foods, and listen to festive music. Candles, stained glass, baskets, and holiday pieces are popular options.
In Nebraska, Christmas celebrations center on the Christmas tree. Families go to Christmas tree farms for an afternoon of drinking hot cider or hot cocoa, choosing a tree, and purchasing trimmings in the form of wreaths, garlands, and centerpieces.
In Oregon many families carry on a tradition that was brought to this country by German immigrants. The final ornament that is placed on the tree is a glass pickle, which is then hidden at night. On Christmas morning the person who find it will have good luck for the year.
Ohio residents look forward to a Christmas season filled with lights and wonder when they visit the historic areas that are adorned with nearly 4 million Christmas lights and feature miniature holiday villages, train displays, riverboats, and parades.
In Oklahoma residents are drawn to the Christmas Kingdom, a castle that is the holiday home to over one thousand Christmas inflatable decorations as well as elaborate light displays and one of the largest Christmas trees in the country.
In the city of Philadelphia during the Christmas season dancers hold what is called a mummer's parade. This procession runs for an entire day and includes music, performers, and dancers dressed in elaborate costumes and often on stilts.
In South Carolina, Christmas celebrations are marked by families and friends gathering together for oyster roasts and parades comprised of elaborately decorated and lit boats. Culinary tours and guided tours of historic homes are common traditions enjoyed during December.
In South Dakota, celebrating the Christmas season is all about enjoying old-fashioned tradition. Families take horse drawn carriage rides through wintery landscapes and enjoy displays of lighted trees that are decorated to reflect different civic organizations.
In Tennessee families head out into forests and farms to cut down the perfect Christmas tree that they then bring home and display prominently in the family room or parlor. The trees are traditionally decorated with popcorn strings, lights, and colorful glass balls.
Christmas in Texas takes a lot of influence from South American tradition. Families eat meals of traditional Mexican foods and often participate in the after-Christmas tradition of Three Kings Day. Some people decorate cactus plants as they would a fir tree.
In Utah families and friends gather together during the Christmas season to enjoy horse drawn carriage rides, sleigh rides, and skiing. Elaborate light displays are the perfect complement to the sparkling snowy weather that characterizes the Utah winter.
In Virginia people place candles in their windowsills at the beginning of the Christmas season. Candles in the windows are a symbol of hospitality and welcome, greeting all that pass. The glow is meant to welcome travelers to come inside and celebrate the season.
In Vermont Christmas is about spending time with those that are closest to you. Gifts are often homemade, with wives and mothers spending the weeks prior to the holiday creating quilts, clothing, samplers, and homemade food and treats to offer loved ones.
In Washington State there are several traditions that were brought over from other countries in the days of settlement. One tradition finds families decorating Christmas trees with sparkling spider webs and spiders that represent the smallest creatures to witness the miraculous birth of Christ.
In West Virginia the Christmas season is heralded in by the decorating of the Christmas tree, usually cut down by the father and brought home to be displayed in the main room of the home. The traditional dinner features roast turkey and potatoes.
In Wisconsin families gather together for elaborate, extended parties. Traditional foods are eaten and music and dancing last well into the wee hours of the morning. Revelers party as long as they can, waiting for other guests to wander in from other parties. Many attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to begin the actual holiday.
In Wyoming friends and family reconnect over the Christmas season by sending greeting cards and sharing news of the year with one another. Evergreen wreaths are decorated with other natural elements and hung on the front door to welcome guests.