These five Christmas traditions are rooted in America.

5 Christmas traditions only Americans will understand

Many families have Christmas traditions, from opening gifts on December 24 to wear matching pajamas for the holiday to riding Macy’s Pink Pig at Lenox Square.

Some Christmas traditions found in the United States, however, leave the rest of the world scratching their heads in confusion.

» This is the holiday event you voted as being the best of Atlanta

Photo: John Scott/Getty Images

Pickle ornament

Every year, an ornament shaped like a pickle is the last to be hung on the tree. The first child to locate the pickle, hidden among the pine needles, on Christmas morning receives a special treat or extra gift.

Most people credit the Germans with starting this tradition, but a polling agency found that 91 percent of that country’s residents had never heard of it.

» Woodruff Park to become 3-month wonderland of light sculptures

Photo: Courtesy of TinkerLab/For the AJC

Popcorn on Christmas trees

Germany started the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it, according to In the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Decorations for these trees were, understandably, made by hand. Trees were decorated with berries, popcorn and nuts to feed the birds, says, and the custom continued with indoor trees.

» Those vintage ceramic Christmas trees you kept might be worth money now

Watching video of Yule log burning

Not everyone has a fireplace, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the ambiance of a burning Yule log.

Fred Tower, manager of WPIX-TV in New York City, wanted the station to do “something a little different and special” on Christmas Eve in 1966, according to Mental Floss. The station filmed the fireplace at Gracie Mansion, the residence of New York’s mayor, and for three hours played a 17-second continuous loop of the burning Yule log.

That commercial-free broadcast turned out to be too expensive to continue, but versions of the burning Yule log can be found on YouTube, Netflix and numerous smart phone apps.

Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / Getty Images

Drunken Santas

SantaCon began in the mid-1970s in San Francisco, but the party has spread to other states. Basically, hundreds (or thousands) of revelers dress as Santa or in other holiday costume and parade through a city while consuming alcohol. 

» An Atlanta drinker's guide to the holidays

Photo: File


Although this traditional Christmas drink is enjoyed around the world, the version with rum started in the Colonies. Rum from the Caribbean was much easier to get and less expensive, according to

Looking for things to do during the holiday? The AJC Winter Guide has you covered, including:

» 7 Atlanta outings for the whole family

» Macy’s Pink Pig continues Atlanta holiday tradition

» Don't-miss Christmas tree festivals in Atlanta

» Where to visit Santa Claus in metro Atlanta 

» 5 holiday train adventures near Atlanta in 2019

» Roof at Ponce City Market transforming into winter playground

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.