Celebrating Christmas in the USA

image: My MBA Exchange Buddy, Lilach, and I decorate the Christmas Tree. Lilach is from Israel, and had never decorated a Christmas tree before. She said, "It’s just like in the movies!"

updated for 2009

by: Grayson Leverenz

Christmas is probably the biggest holiday of the year in the USA. Hours of shopping, decorating and cooking come together on this special day, December 25th. Christmas is a federal holiday; so most businesses are closed, and there are no government services like post, trash or recycling.

The Christmas Story

As told by the books of Matthew and Luke in the Bible, an angel visited a young woman named Mary from Galilee of Nazareth, and told her she was destined to bear the son of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s fiancée, Joseph, felt shamed that his virgin bride was pregnant. He considered divorcing her in private, but changed his mind after a visit from another angel that confirmed Mary’s story.

Just before Mary gave birth, the young family traveled to Bethlehem to register in the census. There was no room at the town’s small inn, but the innkeeper allowed Mary and Joseph to stay in the stable because Mary was with child. She gave birth to a baby boy that night. She wrapped him in swaddling clothing, and laid him in a manger.

An angel appeared in a field and told the shepherds of the miracle birth. The shepherds, guided by the light of the North Star, traveled to meet the baby, as did three Wise Men bearing gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. After meeting the baby Jesus, the shepherds and Wise Men told friends and neighbors about their experience meeting an angel and the future Savior of the world.


Many Americans attend religious ceremonies to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Ceremonies take place on Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas morning.

The idea of being home for the holidays resonates with most Americans. Christmas is the time of year to surround yourself with extended family, young and old. For some people, Christmas is actually the one time a year family members see each other. They exchange gifts, share stories from the year and feast on American classics, very similar to Thanksgiving dinner.

Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and Decorations
Americans adapted Santa Claus from the versions of Father Christmas that originated in Europe. With his rosy red cheeks, white beard, red suit and giant belly that “shakes like a bowl full of jelly,” Santa Claus delivers gifts to good girls and boys every Christmas Eve.

Santa Claus leaves the gifts under the Christmas tree, which Americans take great pride in decorating. Some people prefer colored lights and homemade ornaments; others go for white lights and silver bells. My family always uses white lights with a combination of ornaments we made as children and ornaments we’ve collected over the years.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas in B-school without talking about the gifts. The National Retail Federation forecasted Americans would spend $437.6 billion in 2009 throughout the holiday season (total retail purchases in Nov and Dec to include Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa), down 1% from 2008.

To celebrate your own Christmas here in the US:

Your evergreen tree or wreath with homemade ornaments crafted by you and your friends. Click here for ideas.

To Christmas carols like “Deck the Halls” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Click here to stream music for free.

Egg nog, the classic Christmas drink, but don’t drink too much; it will make you sick fast! Click here for a recipe.

A classic American holiday meal. Click here for my Thanksgiving suggestions; they work very well for Christmas, too.

An alternative is to splurge on a meal you wouldn’t have often. My family always had ribeye steaks and homemade french fries for Christmas Eve dinner, followed by a birthday cake for baby Jesus.

One of the classic Christmas movies. Click here for my recommendations.

Your time to someone special. Or, give in the spirit of sustainable business. Brandon and I recently started micro-lending through Kiva. It is absolutely amazing to help global entrepreneurs build businesses that will benefit their families and their communities. Click here to check Kiva out.

For more on Christmas, click here.

Merry Christmas! 

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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