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How Immigration Shaped American Holidays

One of the biggest reasons Americans celebrate the holidays they do, and the way they do, is because of immigration.

Immigration has played an enormous role in American holidays, not only shaping how they are celebrated but also in the very creation of many of the holidays celebrated each year in the United States.

Throughout history, immigrants brought various aspects of their cultures to the United States as they attempted to keep traditions from their homeland alive.

These traditions occasionally caught on and became more widely practiced in the United States, and many American holidays simply would not exist if it were not for immigration.

Immigration Created Many American Holidays

Have you ever really stopped to think about just how many American holidays simply would not exist if it wasn’t for immigration? It’s probably many more than you thought.

St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, and Cinco de Mayo are all readily associated with the various countries these holidays originated in and the immigrants who began celebrating them in the United States.

Columbus Day, while currently at the center of controversy in the United States, began as a celebration of Italian immigrants who faced persecution in the U.S.

Independence Day, celebrating American’s independence from British control, came about after the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Eight of the 56 signers were immigrants, while nearly all others were the children or grandchildren of immigrants1. Additionally, numerous members of the early American government were immigrants.

These are just a few of the American holidays that are indebted to immigration, which has also played a large role in how these holidays are celebrated.

Immigration Started Many Holiday Traditions

Many of the traditions associated with American holidays would not be practiced in the United States were it not for immigration.

A quick look at Christmas highlights this phenomenon as Christmas trees (German), Christmas cards (United Kingdom), Yule logs (Scandinavian), mistletoe (Norse and Celtic), and Santa Claus (German, Dutch, Ukrainian, and Swiss) as traditions that began with immigrants.

Other holidays have also been greatly impacted by immigration, with Halloween deriving from England’s All Soul’s Day, the Easter Bunny being adopted from a German tradition, and the famous ball drop in New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve as the brainchild of German-born Adolph Ochs.

Immigration Inspired Many Holiday Meals

Another form of tradition in the United States that owes a debt of gratitude to immigration is the food Americans consume to celebrate various holidays.

The New Year’s tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut for good luck in the new year came from European nations while the Easter ham traces its origins to the Germans.

A Christmas day feast centered on a turkey or another large bird is typically credited to the English.

Perhaps most surprising is that much of the food Americans eat on July 4th is courtesy of immigration. Just think of the variety of choices at a 4th of July barbeque: hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, veggies, dips, various salads, and more. This is because America has so many various culinary backgrounds that have provided such a wide array of foods.

Immigration has had a profound impact on American holidays, both in terms of the holidays that are celebrated in the United States, and in the ways, they are celebrated. Traditions from other countries have become firmly embedded in American holidays, not the least of which are the meals American families enjoy on these occasions.

Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in 4 different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.

Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital and high-growth enterprises.

At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of U.S. and Canadian immigration, SBA loans, and others.