In the United States, the winter season is a celebratory conclusion to the year that has passed and an introduction into the next. It is a time of holiday spirit and an opportunity to spend some much needed downtime with family. Most Americans honor the season in one way or another, many engaging in activities such as baking cookies, decorating trees, and exchanging gifts throughout December. However, the spirit and significance of winter is different for everybody, depending on where they live and in what they believe.
Winter traditions in America often revolve around faith. Practitioners of different religions are concentrated throughout different parts of the country. With such religious variety comes a variety of winter holidays. Perhaps the most nationally widespread faith, Christianity honors Christmas as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas season often consists of church services and food drives to help the poor. Jewish practitioners usually celebrate Hanukkah, honoring the rededication of Jerusalem’s Second temple after the Maccabean revolt in 2 B.C. Hanukkah is marked by lighting one of eight candles each night of the season. But while different religions may form distinct winter holidays, the joy and gratitude of the holiday season is felt by most Americans regardless of their beliefs.
Winter traditions also vary from area to area, depending on geography and culture. Cold, northern states that receive heaps of snow experience a different winter than warmer states where the sun shines year round. Activities like sledding and plowing snow are not concerns nationwide, and warmer places often rely on lights and decorations to evoke the feeling of winter. Furthermore, each state has unique winter customs. In New York, for example, residents gather at midnight in Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch as a crystal ball is lowered from the sky. Residents in Arizona celebrate New Year’s Eve similarly, but drop an enormous tortilla chip in place of a crystal ball.
Superstition and rituals also dominate America’s winter season, which is often regarded as a time of prosperity. Many Americans recognize Groundhog Day on February 2 as a sign the snow is passing and the year will bring good fortune.
Even as the holidays come to an end, the winter season continues from January until March. And while the decorations and festivities may disappear, citizens recognize the importance of winter as a time to catch up with friends and family, as well as an opportunity to reflect and set goals for the year to come.