American Holiday Traditions

This pathfinder has been created as a guide to finding resources on holiday origins, traditions, and celebration, primarily American. It includes both online sources and print sources. holidays.

Internet Sources | Print Sources

Internet Sources

These are specific sources on some of the major holidays celebrated in the United States. For information on holidays not listed here, you can try Yahoo!’s category on Holidays and Observances,
in which you can find sites about Passover, Kwaanza, Mother’s Day, Ramadan, the Fourth of July, and so forth.

  • Christmas
    • How Christmas Works – The Complete Guide to Christmas Traditions
      This informative section of the “HowStuffWorks” web site includes answers to a wide variety of Christmas questions, including “Is December 25 really the day Jesus was born?”, “Why is mistletoe hanging over the front door?”, and “Why is Christmas sometimes spelled Xmas?”.

    • Christmas Round the World (Wide Web)
      A collection of links to Santa Claus sites, Christmas humor, stories, sing-along carols, recipes, and crafts.

    • Worldview Christmas

      Click on the name of a country to learn about Christmas traditions around the world. Also features links to Christmas symbolism, ornaments, and early American Christmas traditions.

  • Thanksgiving

    • The American Thanksgiving Tradition
      The definitive website on the holiday, from the Plimoth Plantation museum’s web site.

    • An American Thanksgiving
      Includes information on the first Thanksgiving, including the text of historical documents; crafts for children; Thanksgiving recipes; and links to other Thanksgiving-related sites.

    • Thanksgiving on the Net
      Contains the tradtional story of the first Thanksgiving, as well as harvest celebrations around the world; the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation; all about the turkey; and a “goodies” page featuring a Virtual Turkey and pictures to print.

  • Easter
    • Easter and Passover
      “Features, history, and sweet candy facts” from the Information Please web site. Includes information on Easter traditions around the world, an encyclopedia article on the holiday, and other Easter trivia.

    • Easter on the Net
      Includes the story of Easter, the origin of the Easter Bunny and the symbolism of Easter eggs, a children’s Easter page, and Easter crafts.

    • History of the White House Easter Egg Roll
      This National Park Service web site provides a brief history of the Easter Egg Roll.
  • Halloween
    • Halloween Guide
      This collection of information related to Halloween includes a “Halloween History” section, a “Menacing Monster Guide”, and “Hip Halloween Flicks”. Part of the Information Please web site.

    • Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows
      From the American Folklife Center, this page gives a good description of the origins of Halloween and Halloween traditions, and also includes a selected bibliography on Halloween and related topics.

Print Resources:

These are books on general holiday traditions; you may be able to find them in your local public or college library or a bookstore.

The Folklore of American Holidays
Gale Research, 1987.

Describes the folklore and traditions of holidays celebrated in America, from the well-known (New Year’s Day) to the lesser-known (the Seminole Green Corn Dance); even provides traditional recipes associated with the holidays.

The Folklore of World Holidays
Gale Research, 1992.

Similar to the one above, but for the whole world; gives the date of the holiday, an explanation of the holiday, and traditions and folklore associatied with it for every country which celebrates that particular holiday.

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary
Omnigraphics, 1997.

Features calendar systems around the world, tourist information related to holidays, fixed and moveable holidays, and legal holidays; describes both secular and religious holidays around the world.

Books on holidays can be found under the Dewey call number 390 in a public library, and under the Library of Congress call number GT 4800 in most college libraries. To find more books on holidays in a card catalog or an online catalog, use the following Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Holidays—United States
Festivals—United States

This pathfinder was created by Deb DeGeorge, based on work by Yabin Liu

You may also wish to see IPL Youth Collection: Holidays of the World