Britain Vs America – The Christmas Special

As we already know, there are a huge number of differences when it comes to the cultures of the United Kingdom and the United States. The festive season is just another topic that differs considerably, despite what you might expect. On the surface there are many similarities, but some of the differences are less subtle than others.

Interestingly, in the UK it’s fairly common to wish people a “Happy Christmas” which has much the same effect as the traditional “Merry Christmas”. In America, this simply doesn’t happen! In fact, it’s not uncommon for British English to offer two different ways of saying exactly the same thing, to the confusion of other English speakers around the world.

Father Christmas might be similarly perplexed, as in the US he would normally be referred to exclusively as Santa Claus, but in the UK we’re happy to switch between the two. His home also has a tendency to change depending on who you ask. Americans simply say Santa lives at the North Pole, while Brits tend to point out that Lapland is where you can actually visit him.

Food typically differs between the two counties, too. Traditionally in America, the turkey we usually eat in Britain is more suited to Thanksgiving. At Christmas a different meat would probably be on the menu, such as beef or ham. For dessert, Americans would swap mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding for a different winter classic such as pumpkin or apple pie.

When it comes to drinks, many Brits think of snowballs (whether you love them or hate them). The name won’t be recognised in much of the USA, but for whatever reason, egg-based beverages are still associated with Christmas. Egg nog aside, though, you’re not likely to find an American substitute for another British tradition: Christmas crackers. Surprisingly enough, these are exclusively found in the UK for the most part. Horrifyingly, even Boxing Day is absent from the US holiday schedule, and is simply treated as the day after Christmas.

You might be forgiven for wondering where the classic American attitude of doing everything bigger and better has gotten to. It sounds like Brits have a lot more traditions to enjoy over the festive season, doesn’t it?

Of course, we’re forgetting one major area – the decorations! What the US might lack in subtle touches, it more than makes up for with lights, trees, more lights, elaborate shrines dedicated to Santa Claus, and even more lights. You’ll need sunglasses to take a walk through many American neighbourhoods around Christmas. You’ll probably get an even bigger dose of festive spirit by visiting a big city or a shopping mall, since the tradition of gift buying is still even bigger than it is in the UK.

Overall, it’s worth remembering that no two households celebrate Christmas the same way, so it’s no surprise there are plenty of differences between countries an ocean apart from each other. The most important thing is to relax and enjoy the festive season!