The key differences between an American and British Christmas

Billy Nighy Love ActuallyJust like in Britain, Americans find Christmas to be one of the most joyous and festive times of the year. Families and friends will get together to celebrate the occasion, whether they are religious or not. While both cultures may be watching much the same Christmas movies (including those set in the Big Apple) – think Elf, Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Carol; Love Actually actually divides opinion on the other side of the pond despite raking in nearly $60 in the US and Canada – there are still some key differences.

We will now take a light-hearted look at some of the things that set apart an American and British Christmas.

Use the right lingo

Merry Christmas labelAmerican English has always been known for its subtle, yet crucial, variations on British English words and expressions – and not just in terms of spelling. At Christmastime, the language used is especially different. “Merry Christmas” is the norm in the United States (as opposed to Happy Christmas), while “Chrimbo” (blame it on Bo Selecta) is an entirely British thing. There is also no “Father Christmas” from Lapland in America; just “Santa Claus” or “Saint Nick” from the North Pole.

Too soon for turkey?

Turkey dinnerThose wondering why most Americans don’t seem to have turkey for their Christmas dinner just need to remember that Thanksgiving was only a month ago and so they usually opt for ham, beef ribs or something else us Brits would not consider to be traditional.

Also, when it comes to desserts, you can expect Americans to bake some sort of pie over Christmas cake or Christmas pudding.

Forget having to put on your silly paper party hat

Christmas hatsIn Britain, even the most conservative of individuals are expected to throw caution to the wind and don a crazy paper party hat that resembles a colourful crown. Don’t think that Americans will follow suit as these are less common over there, thank goodness. Christmas crackers are only just starting to become more widely available in the States too, so they’re missing out on some really bad jokes!

For one day only

The ‘Day after Christmas Day’ as it is known in America isn’t referred to as ‘Boxing Day’ and doesn’t have the same connotations as in Britain (and indeed other Commonwealth countries). Not all states declare the day a public holiday, but then again, they have just had Thanksgiving off work.

Lights please!

Christmas lightsIf you’ve ever seen Home Alone or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you’ll already know that Christmas lights are a big, big, big deal in the United States. In Britain, you’ll find the odd extravagant home amongst an entire street but this doesn’t compare to the full-on light shows and musical treats provided for passers-by in America.

Missing out on the Chuckle Brothers

Chuckle Brothers AladdinMost Americans are not familiar with the pantomime experience. Yes, the “panto” is something that tends to baffle those Stateside – if they ever get to hear about the premise. So, struggling-for-work actors and B-list celebrities have to stick to good ol’ Blighty for the chance to star in their own festive show.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these interesting observations which distinguish how the two nations celebrate Christmas. While there are a number of differences, it is good to know there is still something of a ‘special relationship’ between the two. The recent royal trip by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – who have been enjoying a three-day tour of New York – would certainly suggest this to be the case.

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