Family Traditions

The United States (U.S.) is the third largest populated country in the world and can be categorized into five regions in alphabetical order:  Midwest, Northeast, South, Southeast and Western.  Culturally, the U.S. is one of the most diverse in the world and adopts its family traditions from the European English of the 1600s.

Additionally, the U.S. borrows traditions of the Native Americans, Latin Americans, Africans, and Asians, to name a few.  Once descriptively ascribed as a cultural “melting pot”, U.S family traditions is a plethora of not only differing cultures, but various sets of religions, histories, languages, and influences.

Many U.S. family traditions are observed on public holidays even though the constitutional authority to create and enforce public holidays is reserved to each State.  However, each State generally allows local jurisdictions to dictate their own holidays.  Still, U.S. residents are generally known to be holiday enthusiasts who continue to practice several U.S. family traditions each year.

Independence Day is one U.S. family tradition in the U.S. is Independence Day.  July 4th is when the U.S. celebrates its independence from hundreds of years of Colonial British rule.  On Independence Day, families gather for food and reunion that typically ends with a colourful finale of fireworks.

U.S. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May.  U.S. residents mark this day by recognizing the sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces members and that of their families.  Crowds gather to attend commemorative services appropriate for the public and military personnel alike to honour fallen soldiers.  In similar fashion, like-minded groups gather in private services.

Valentine’s Day, which falls on the 14th day of February, is a U.S. family tradition that is widely recognized around the world.  Sentiments such as “Be Mine”, “I love you”, “Hugs and Kisses”, “SWAK” (Sent with a kiss), “Sweetheart”, and “happy valentine’s day” are exchanged between giver and recipient, atop decorative cards, flowers, candies, chocolates, and other creative idea holders. It is also a tradition that is popularly practiced by the very young among us.  Unlike those mentioned above, Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday.  This fact makes this family tradition one of the most practiced regardless of age, culture, beliefs, vocation or social standing.

One major U.S. family tradition is Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving Day is observed on the fourth Thursday in November, even though its neighbor to the north celebrates Canadian Thanksgiving Day earlier on the second Monday in October.  For this family tradition, parades, football, harvest festival, religious observances, pumpkins, turkey and gathering of close friends and families have become a theme of Thanksgiving Day.  U.S. Thanksgiving also refers to the first Thanksgiving of 1621 where Pilgrims feasted for three days after their first harvest following a drought in the New World.  The first Thanksgiving is remembered as a religious offering of thanks and prayer, witnessed by Native Americans.

Finally, one of the merriest U.S. family traditions of all is Christmas and New Year’s Day that both closes the “old” and opens the “new” years.  With the passing of time, Christmas Day continues to experience the diluting of religious references.  As a result, Christmas has come to be addressed as “Happy Holidays” in an effort to be inclusive to a wider demographic of U.S. residents.  Santa Claus, elves, the North Pole, reindeers, and Christmas tree are just as popular as the Nativity.  Presents under the Christmas tree as families and close friends gather on Christmas day to enjoy a Turkey dinner with all the finishing at the dinner table is widely practiced throughout the country.   Children remain on their best behaviour eagerly anticipate Santa’s arrival with a giant sack filled with presents on Christmas Eve while adults attack the shops with wallets open wide to make this one of the happiest season of all.  While Christmas concentrates on the delight of children, New Year’s is more of an adult celebration that involves champagne countdown parties, and of course, a kiss (hopefully?) to ring in the next 365 days.

American family traditions are well known not only in the U.S. but around the world.  As previously mentioned, many of these traditions originated with different people groups and religious practices.  So, it is not surprising to see that some U.S. family traditions are still practiced in various places around the world.  While the rules and observances may differ from place to place, one thing remains the same.  Family traditions give people a reason to come together to create new memories, share good food and reminisce.  Happy Celebrations to you and yours!

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