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Winter Traditions Celebrated Throughout the U.S.

winter traditions in U.S.

The winter season in the United States is full of celebrations. There are numerous holidays and traditions observed by Americans, many of which will be recognized at your child’s school. 

Here’s what children studying abroad can expect with some of this seasons’ traditions.


Thanksgiving in the U.S. is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. The day is intended to be spent with family and usually features an afternoon meal of traditional foods, often featuring turkey as the main dish. 

The holiday’s purpose is to express gratitude. While the tradition of sitting down to share a meal is based on a myth about the country’s founding, most Americans focus less on the history and more on the spirit of the day. Many people watch American football games with their family or volunteer their time to help the less fortunate.


Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and takes place on December 25. Many non-Christian Americans celebrate Christmas by exchanging gifts with family members and friends, decorating a Christmas tree, and listening to Christmas music. 


Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated over the course of eight nights. Known as the “festival of lights,” it occurs in late November or December. The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. In the households of people celebrating Hanukkah, you’ll find a menorah, an eight-branched candelabra that symbolizes the holiday.


Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural tradition celebrated from December 26 to January 1. The purpose of the holiday is to honor family, community, and African culture. Families might wear African kente cloth, participate in musical performances, and sit for karamu, a feast featuring foods from across the African continent. 

New Year’s Day

New Year’s is a holiday with two distinct parts: New Year’s Eve on December 31 and New Year’s Day on January 1. On New Year’s Eve, people often host parties that culminate with a countdown of the last seconds of the year. People will often make resolutions about things they hope to accomplish in the coming year. Cities and towns often hold fireworks displays that take place in the first few minutes of the new year.

On New Year’s Day, cities and towns host grand parades to bring in the new year. Families will gather to spend the holiday with one another, sometimes watching college football championship games.

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
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