Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And whether it’s decking the halls with holiday lights or taking the children for photos with Santa, every family has their own heartwarming traditions to celebrate this magical season.
Christmas traditions are typically passed down from generation to generation, but today, families also turn to Google to explore holiday customs and activities. To better understand the many unique ways Americans throughout the country mark the holidays, we analyzed Google Trends data for over 20 Christmas traditions across a 12-month period. The term that ranked highest for search volume in each state was deemed the most popular.
What are the most popular Christmas traditions according to our elves? Let’s take a look.
Most Popular Christmas Tradition in Every State
While some popular holiday traditions, such as Secret Santa, transcended numerous state lines, others were more prevalent in certain states. Our study unwrapped the following seasonal surprises:
- Hiding a pickle ornament was the number one searched-for holiday tradition in Montana. This tradition involves hiding a pickle-shaped ornament in the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle ornament is said to receive good fortune for the upcoming year and may also receive an extra gift or get to open the first present.
- In Texas, they get a head start on the holiday festivities by opening presents on Christmas Eve.
- Wearing matching Christmas pajamas is popular in Alabama and Mississippi, perfect for pictures, present-opening, and cozy lounging watching classic holiday movies.
- Utah and Wisconsin are baking up some sweet holiday cheer by building gingerbread houses, a tradition that dates back to the early 1800s in Germany.
Most Popular Christmas Tradition in Every Region
From coast to coast and north to south, different regions appear to have their favorite Christmas customs.
Midwesterners seem to prefer a combination of cringeworthy and classic, as wearing ugly Christmas sweaters was tied in popularity with personalizing Christmas stockings.
Northeasterners are using Advent calendars to count down the days until Christmas. Advent calendars, around since the 19th century, have 24 tiny doors, one for each day in December until the 25th. Open one door daily to find a picture, a piece of chocolate, or a small toy.
Tied with opening an Advent calendar in the Northeast was hosting a Secret Santa party. Secret Santa is a popular gift-exchange game where participants draw names to see who they will buy a gift for in secret. Then, everyone exchanges gifts and tries to guess who their Secret Santa is.
In the South, tradition reigns: Decorating a Christmas tree was the most popular holiday activity. The West, however, seems to enjoy good-natured gift-stealing, i.e., hosting a White Elephant party. The White Elephant party game, also known as a Yankee Swap, involves participants drawing numbers to determine the order in which they select wrapped gifts. Players can choose a new gift or "steal" one that someone else has already opened.
Most Popular Christmas Traditions Overall
What are America’s top Christmas traditions overall? People are dreaming of a white Christmas…a White Elephant Christmas, that is. Hosting a White Elephant party was the most searched-for holiday activity in eight states, solidifying its lead as America’s most popular Christmas tradition according to our findings.
Americans also love to celebrate the spirit of bad taste. ‘Tis the season for the tacky:
Wearing ugly Christmas sweaters was the second most searched-for holiday activity overall.
Rounding out the top three was personalizing Christmas stockings. Perhaps adding monograms helps ensure Santa knows precisely where to deliver every stocking stuffer.
Tied for fourth place was opening an Advent calendar and Elf on the Shelf, a tradition based on a children’s book. A scout elf watches a child every day for good behavior and reports to Santa each night. While the child is asleep, the parent moves the elf to a new spot in the home for the child to find in the morning. On Christmas Eve, the elf returns to the North Pole with Santa until next year.
Create a Season of Comfort and Joy
Whether you're gathering around the tree in comfy matching Christmas pajamas, dreaming of sugarplums in super soft bamboo pajamas, or singing carols with loved ones, the holidays are a special time. So celebrate the season, create cherished memories with your family and friends, and embrace the magic of Christmas by making it truly your own.