Christmas Traditions in the U.S.

This year, the team of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Blog would like to wish you all a very Mer­ry Christ­mas by test­ing your knowl­edge of Christ­mas triv­ia. We hope that you will pass ‘and’ pass on our info­tain­ment to your fam­i­ly, friends, col­leagues, and stu­dents. It is inter­est­ing to pon­der how much oth­er cul­tures have enriched Amer­i­can Christ­mas tra­di­tions. With­out fur­ther ado, here’s our Christ­mas quiz for you:

  1. Which one of America’s most beloved Christ­mas poems by Clement Moore appeared on Dec. 23, 1823?
  2. Which group of Ger­man immi­grants intro­duced the Christ­mas tree to the Unit­ed States in the 1800s?
  3. Which Ger­man Amer­i­can illus­tra­tor heav­i­ly influ­enced Santa’s pop­u­lar image?
  4. Which two oth­er hol­i­days are cel­e­brat­ed in the Unit­ed States dur­ing the month of December?
  5. Can you name at least 3 reli­gious and 3 non-reli­gious fig­ures, icons, or sym­bols of the holiday?


  1. “A Vis­it from St. Nicholas” also known as “Twas the Night Before Christ­mas.” If you aren’t famil­iar with it, lis­ten to it told by Per­ry Como.
  2. The Penn­syl­va­nia Ger­mans, some­times referred to as the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch. Appar­ent­ly, the Puri­tans had out­lawed Christ­mas in much of New Eng­land in the 1600s which con­sid­er­ably slowed down the import­ing and cre­at­ing of Christ­mas tra­di­tions in Amer­i­ca. The first writ­ten record of a Christ­mas tree can be traced back to the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty in 1821.
  3. Thomas Nast. Among oth­er aspects, his draw­ings for Harper’s Week­ly between 1863–1886 includ­ed the work­shop at the North Pole and the list of naughty and nice children.
  4. Hanukkah (a Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tion com­mem­o­rat­ing the reclaim­ing of the Holy Tem­ple in Jerusalem) and Kwan­za (an African Amer­i­can cel­e­bra­tion found­ed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karen­ga on Dec. 26, 1966, as a sev­en-day, non-reli­gious hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ing the tra­di­tion­al African val­ues of uni­ty, self-deter­mi­na­tion, col­lec­tive work and respon­si­bil­i­ty, coop­er­a­tive eco­nom­ics, pur­pose, cre­ativ­i­ty as well as faith)
  5. There are many pos­si­ble answers. Here are a few we came up with:

Reli­gious fig­ures, sym­bols, or icons: Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the angel Gabriel, the manger, the wise men, the star of Beth­le­hem, hol­ly (thorns sym­bol­iz­ing Christ’s crown and berries rep­re­sent­ing the blood of Christ), and the nativ­i­ty scene.

Non-reli­gious fig­ures, sym­bols or icons: San­ta Claus; mistle­toe; Poin­set­tias (an import­ed plant intro­duced in 1828 by the first Mex­i­can ambas­sador from the U.S., Joel Roberts Poin­sett); Christ­mas cards (cre­at­ed in Britain in 1843 and intro­duced to the U.S. in 1846); Christ­mas Car­ol­ing (a French & Eng­lish singing tra­di­tion); egg nog (a French tra­di­tion – Lait de Poule); fruit­cake; hot apple cider; and sug­ar cookies.

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