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Traditions

December 2, 2023

5 Unique Christmas Traditions In Towns Across America

Out of the Ordinary Holiday Traditions

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A US flag painted on wood, with a small Christmas tree and presents on top.

iStockPhoto / Tim Gray

From bourbon-soaked fruitcake, to bonfires on the banks of the Mississippi, these towns take their unique Christmas traditions seriously. This isn’t your usual holiday fare. These towns put their own stamp on Christmas and SANTA.COM would like to take you along for the ride to experience these American Christmas traditions. 

The Tomte Spirits of Delaware

Two traditional Swedish gnomes representing the Tomte elfin spirits of Christmas.
Two traditional Swedish gnomes representing the Tomte elfin spirits of Christmas.
iStockPhoto / Jakub Hostacny

In the cozy city of Wilmington, Delaware, a distinctive Christmas tradition resonates among the local residents, that centers around children leaving milk out for the mythical tomte spirits. This Swedish Christmas activity has firmly rooted itself within Wilmington's holiday customs, illustrating the multicultural influences present within the city. 

As the Yuletide season approaches, children leave out bowls of milk as an offering to the tomte, diminutive elfin spirits from Scandinavian folklore, believed to safeguard homes and farms. It's thought that providing for these invisible household protectors will encourage them to bring good fortune in the upcoming year, making the milk-offering a charmingly benevolent gesture during the season of giving and one of the city’s most beloved annual holiday traditions.

The Bonfires of Louisiana

Ornate bonfire in Louisiana during New Orleans’ festival of the Bonfires.
Ornate bonfire in Louisiana during New Orleans’ festival of the Bonfires.
NewOrleans.com

In the heart of Louisiana, along the winding curves of the Mississippi River, a distinctive Christmas tradition flickers into life every Christmas Eve with the Festival of the Bonfires

Residents gather to construct massive, artistic bonfires on the river's banks. These roaring beacons, made of tied and dried reeds, create a beautiful pathway of lights against the backdrop of the dark, expansive river. 

The purpose of this annual display is rooted in local folklore. They serve as navigational aids to Papa Noel, the Cajun name for Santa Claus, guiding him on his annual journey to deliver gifts. This Christmas celebration of the bonfire tradition, resonating with communal spirit and anticipation for Christmas, creates a spectacular sight, symbolizing the welcoming warmth of Louisiana's people for Papa Noel and is one of the most beloved Christmas activities in the area.

That Ol’ Kentucky Spirit

A bourbon-soaked fruit cake on a platter with a decanter of bourbon in the background.
A bourbon-soaked fruit cake on a platter with a decanter of bourbon in the background.
Tori Avey

In Kentucky, a unique and flavorful Christmas tradition signifies the festive spirit of Christmas - bourbon-soaked fruitcake. Known for its distilleries, Kentucky brings a unique twist to the classic Christmas fruitcake by generously soaking it in local whiskey. The aging process allows the fruitcake to fully absorb the spirit, resulting in a moist and flavorful dessert that captures the heart of Kentucky's rich heritage and is part of the traditional Christmas dinner across the state. 

The holiday tradition adds a warm, distinctive note to the holiday festivities and exemplifies the spirit of the Christmas season in Kentucky. It’s a tasty treat for both the locals and the visitors during the Christmas holiday.

The Fairy Princess of Kansas City

Kansas City Fairy Princess dressed in white, with two young girls dressed in teal and pink princess dresses.
Kansas City Fairy Princess dressed in white, with two young girls dressed in teal and pink princess dresses.
KCUR 89.3

The history of Christmas in Kansas City includes the unique appearance of a Fairy Princess each year. In 1935, Kline’s Department Store in Kansas City, Missouri introduced the now-famous Fairy Princess to promote their Toyland department. Ninety years later, the Christmas Fairy Christmas tradition lives on at the Kansas City Museum, and is a highlight of the city's Christmas holiday season. 

This holiday tradition features a woman dressed as a fairy, with the main aim of spreading Christmas cheer and magic among the people of Kansas City. Each year, the Christmas Fairy brings joy, holiday spirit, and a touch of magic to Kansas City’s Christmas Celebrations.

The Tumbleweed Tree of Chandler, Arizona

Christmas Tumbleweed Tree under construction in the city center of Chandler, Arizona.
Christmas Tumbleweed Tree under construction in the city center of Chandler, Arizona.
iStockPhoto / Carmen Whitehead

Legend has it that a fire in late 1956 or early 1957 eradicated all of the Christmas decorations in Chandler, Arizona. The town responded by replacing them with a tree constructed from tumbleweeds, which consequently gave birth to a new holiday tradition. 

Though this folklore may be grounded in more practical history, it has nonetheless become an annual Christmas holiday event. Over 60 years since its inception, this quirky custom is a significant part of the community's Christmas activities. 

Each year nearly 1000 tumbleweeds are gathered to construct the 35 ft. tree, sprayed with 25 gallons of white paint and dusted with 80 pounds of glitter. The celebration culminates with a festive parade and the annual ceremonial lighting of the Tumbleweed Tree. It’s a Christmas celebration that burns bright every year!

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