Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Typical United States home decorations

Typical United States home decorations

CENTRE COUNTY, PA – It is that time of year again where kids and adults alike find joy in what is known as the Christmas season. Every family has its own traditions, every state, and every country. Here, we will take a look at all the different traditions within Pennsylvania, the United States, and the world.

In Pennsylvania, we have a lot of influences (ancestry, social media, etc.) within our holiday traditions. One of the most popular traditions is the “upside-down Christmas tree” brought to us by the German immigrants. An upside-down tree? What does this entail? Well, this means that families within Pennsylvania did/would hang their holiday trees from the ceiling rather than the traditional way. But, why would they do this? The answer to that question is quite simply – many of the ornaments used on the trees were edible, meaning that when the dried apple garland when kept above the ground, it meant that mice (and other rodents) could not eat it. This kept the festivities going and the tree beautifully decorated. Another popular Pennsylvania tradition is to hang a Moravian star on the front porch or in any main part of the home. A Moravian star is a 26-point star that originally started as a way to keep high school students occupied in math class (it was an assigned project) and the original colors were red and white – representing the blood and purity of Christ. 

Expanding our horizons further than Pennsylvania, we now follow the traditions of the United States as an entire nation. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), holiday/Christmas movies are a US tradition! Here, we see them as a way to get in the holiday mood but relax at the same time! A very popular holiday drink is eggnog, though the feelings about the drink are split. The drink itself is made of raw eggs, cream, sugar, and alcohol and although many other countries drink eggnog, they have put their own twist on the drink as other countries find the drink to be “strong” or “pungent” in its flavor. The most basic traditions that we may not even think about is opening our presents in front of the person who gave them to us! To citizens in the United States, this is a way of showing gratitude for the gifts while displaying your appreciation for the gift. Other countries though, find this to be a greedy tradition.

Looking at the world as a whole, you see so many cultural differences when it comes to the holidays. Jumping to the Philippines, you can see a giant light show consisting of 11 giant lantern type structures built (by 11 different villages) from a variety of materials to look like a kaleidoscope illuminated by electric bulbs. Though this tradition is not celebrated on Christmas or Christmas Eve, it is celebrated the Saturday before Christmas Eve. Austria uses a scare tactic to make kids behave throughout the year by using the popular figure of a horror movie – Krampus. It is said that St. Nicholas comes on Christmas to reward all the good little boys and girls with gifts but that those that misbehave will be whisked away by Krampus, in none other than a sack (that should be filled with presents). In the first week of December, young men dress up as Krampus, scaring kids with clattering chains and bells. In Japan, Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday and so on Christmas, they indulge by eating KFC chicken. 

As a nation that has so many cultures inside of its borders, we can often forget that there are so many different traditions that come from those cultures. Christmas season brings feelings of joy and excitement to both kids and adults alike so we must put all differences aside and celebrate the holiday that is Christmas in our own, unique ways.