How do they celebrate Christmas in the US?
Today we got a lot to cover, first some general knowledge, then my personal experience, some tips where to celebrate Christmas if you are in the States and finally my best tips against homesickness.
I can just write about how it was in Indiana, because of my own experience. I lived on the country side, so whatever happens in the cities I do not know. But I hope you will still enjoy the post ^^
When does the Christmas craziness start?
Officially I would say it starts after Thanksgiving, simply because Black-Friday is probably the most amazing time to go shopping for Christmas presents.
You do not know what Black Friday is?
It is always the Friday after Thanksgiving, when literally all the shops have sales, sometimes up to 70 %. The whole country goes mental, some make plans with which stores to go to first at what time, others get up in the middle of the night to be first at the store. There are huge waiting lines, people who get run over and lots of crazy people fighting for the best bargain. You will love it 😛
What happens next?
After that people will start setting up Christmas decorations and I swear some go really overboard. I was amazed to see what crazy light creations there where. The whole house lit up with green, red and white, Santa figures and sleds you name it. Nights suddenly are not dark anymore, houses are glowing everywhere.
So if you really want in on the Christmas fun, get some decoration and go crazy…always wondered about those electricity bills xD
Besides that most stores will offer lot of cute, useful and useless Christmas themed goods. There will be special “Christmas markets”
It is not like a market how we know it in Germany, but more of a street in a city where all the stores sell Christmas stuff, offer you drinks (best spiced cider ever) and have sales…great for your present shopping. I totally adore these shops either way…
No other country I have seen, has so many decorations and little souvenir shops. Around every corner is a shop which sells adorable stuff, second-hand and new. I love shopping in the States =D They have huge malls yes, but they also have loads
of little treasure shops, just waiting for you to dive in, to find a unique Christmas gift.
Besides that well the Radios play Christmas Music non-stop, you nearly go crazy. People start baking and I gotta say, I am sold on Pumkin Pie(ok that one the actually make for Thanksgiving xD) and the Christmas Cookies, soooo good 😀
By the way if you are really late, you will be able to do your Christmas shopping on the 24th of December.Christmas Eve is no official holiday, so most shops will be open, but come on, don’t do that to yourself, you got a month time to get everything done 😉
Typical Christmas Food
Well, like in the movies I guess. A turkey or ham, mashed potatoes, veggi sides, sweets…but then it really does depend on the family.
In my host family everybody made something and brought it to the party at the parents houses. My host parents had lots of siblings and with their kids, one person could not possibly cook enough for everybody.
How did I celebrate?
I have to be honest, the memories are a bit fuzzy, it is such a long time ago, impossible to remember all the details, but I remember the feeling and atmosphere pretty well. I do know we had Christmas lights too, a cute Christmas tree and a crib (I think) as decoration. All in all they did not go crazy with the decorations 😉
Christmas itself we first celebrated with one side of my host family, next with the other one. Officially Christmas is just on the 25th in the morning and Christmas Eve you would go to church, but not yet celebrate. I am actually not sure if we did not already celebrated with one part of the family during Christmas Eve xD
You remember the kids putting out cookies and milk in the evening for Santa Clause? But again I don’t remember if my little host brother did so or not.I just remember that is was great and even though I was homesick, I still was not really homesick, because they made me feel at home.
But back to the celebration…We went to church first (yeah they are pretty religious and I had to go too. There was no way around it, but I gotta say Christmas is the only time I actually like going to church, everybody sings together and is looking forward to the celebration, it always gets me into a peaceful mood, even if I don’t believe in it).
Later after church and the food, lots of food 😉, it was time for the gifts.The kids got presents from their godparents and grandparents and the adults bought one present to give.
At my host-mothers side they used a game to figure out who would get what.
I really liked that idea and it was fun to watch =D
I didn’t really expect anything from anybody, but they actually made me cry, because they were so nice to me. I went home with gifts I am still treasuring until today. Some I take with me to any new flat I move to as decoration and others I am still using.
Yes by the way, that IPod from 7 years ago is still working, ok the battery is slowly dying but I don’t really want to part with it just yet.
This is where I am saying thanks. I was 16 in a country I was not familiar with the traditions and my family miles away, but I still had one of the most amazing and magical Christmas memories.
I felt like part of the family and I really treasure this experience.
Even though I am still not a big fan of Christmas music 😛
How did it change me to celebrate Christmas away from home?
I treasure the whole family experience of Christmas much more. Suddenly all these little traditions which annoyed me before (teenager, you know) where special and fun.
I started to see the meaning in them and actually nowadays I am the Christmas fanatic in my family. I’ll make them sing and try to craft all the presents by myself.
I even decorated my home in Cologne, even though nobody but me saw it.
In the States I learned the importance of Family, Christmas and also of feeling at home, no matter where in the world you are.
Where to best celebrate Christmas in the United States?
Obviously New York, at least if you don’t have a host family you can celebrate with 😉
But there are actually a couple more places, I found a cute article at another blog, where she introduces some other options besides the New York classic^^ (Just click here, her ideas are really worth checking out )
Finally my 3 ultimate tips against homesickness
1. Bake or make something that reminds you of home. Instead of missing your home, bring it into the other country with you
2. Celebrate Christmas and splurge a bit. Yes you can’t be at home, but instead of sulking, make the best out of it. I actually once celebrated Christmas in a Club in China and it was really fun (more to that in two weeks 😉 )
Stay in a nice Hotel, get a massage, go out for a special dinner, go ice skating, enjoy some nice view with hot wine.
Whatever makes you happy, do it!
3. Skype!!! Maybe you don’t want to speak with your family and maybe you will feel bad, because you can’t be with them, but trust me you would feel much worse if you don’t speak with them.
Talking with the people at the other end of the world,shows you that no matter where in the world you are, family is always there for you and they miss you.
Besides that take a deep breath and just calm your mind. No time is as peaceful as Christmas. It is the time where we can think about all the good and bad that happened and come to peace with it. Where we can start making new plans or figuring out what we wish for. It is a time of insight and family.
Go and try Christmas in the States, it often has a religious touch, but then you also have Santa in the Shopping Centers and the Light and Decorations.
Enjoy it, they really do know how to go bling and if they know one thing over there, it is how to make a grand show, but also on how to make you feel at home, when you celebrate with them^^
Now it is time to tell your story. Have you ever celebrated Christmas far away from home? How do you cope with it?
Or are you American and I forgot something? Tell us how you celebrate Christmas in your family. I am looking forward to hearing from you =)