There’s no question that Christmas is one of the central traditions that unites our country. The classic song, “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” embodies how the season brings us together both nationwide and at the community level. As the tune illustrates in lyrics such as, “From Pennsylvania, folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore,” Christmas is a time that unites Americans from across the country and reminds us of our shared values and traditions. We travel from all across the country, but with one fixed purpose – coming together to celebrate the holidays.
Across the centuries, Christmas traditions have shaped our national identity. Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is one of the great classics of American literature. 19th century political cartoonist Thomas Nast famously used Santa Claus to unite and inspire Americans through the hardships of the Civil War, reminding his audience of the values at stake. With two hundred years of tradition baked into them, Christmas and Santa are as American as apple pie and baseball.
In addition to bringing us together at the national level, Christmas is also a time for building communities. We join not only with friends and family, but also with neighbors and our communities.
Neighborhoods work together for Christmas displays, sometimes even engaging in some friendly competition over who has the best decorations. Towns come alive with Christmas pageants, festivals and parades. Places of worship are packed as friends come together to celebrate. And parents gather at schools to watch their children perform the Christmas programs they’ve practiced for months.
In addition to the traditions, Christmas gives us more time to be together. With schools out and workplaces closed for the holidays, families have more time to spend with each other and with friends and neighbors. We escape the mundane routines of our day-to-day life and take extra time to think about the things that really matter. At Christmastime, we are closest to the people and things we cherish—faith and family, home and hearth, love and laughter. We recenter and treasure everything that gives our lives meaning.
Christmas is also a time for giving back. “Adopting” a family in need or donating a toy gives us the opportunity to make sure that everyone has gifts to open – things like warm clothes that many of us take for granted. Sending a Christmas card to a deployed service member tells those who are serving their country that we at home care about them. Groups make and deliver Christmas dinners so that others can have a traditional celebration they otherwise couldn’t afford. For the homeless or those without someone to celebrate with, communities come together to serve meals.
In fact, Christmas is a major time for giving back. According to NobleHour, “about 30% of all donations for nonprofits come during the month of December alone and about 16% of adults volunteer approximately 2 hours a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas (5% more than the rest of the year).”
Yes, Christmas is special when we can come together, both across the country and in our own towns, to celebrate the people and traditions we treasure as Americans. In this season to relax, re-center, and reflect, we find a stronger sense of community and are reminded that there’s no place like home for the holidays.