Weirdest American Holiday Traditions

Eight Nights of Gifts for Hanukkah

Another holiday that’s been irrevocably affected by commercialism is Hanukkah – a relatively minor Jewish holiday that’s been elevated in status because of its close proximity to Christmas. It’s understandable – Jewish children want to celebrate something along with their peers, so Hanukkah has been steadily gaining prominence. However, it’s ridiculous to suggest to parents that they should be buying eight presents for their children (one for every night of the celebration).

For centuries, small amounts of money have been a traditional gift for Hanukkah, which has led to the practice of giving children foil-wrapped chocolate coins called gelt.

Tom Le Goff / Getty Images

Holiday 5Ks

Another crazy tradition that seems to have caught on in the United States is the holiday 5K, which are often called by cute names like Turkey Trot or Cocoa 5K. Many people dress up in order to take part, wearing ugly holiday sweaters, Santa costumes, or even dressing up like a turkey. These runs are a great way to get active before a huge meal, but the close proximity to overindulgence just seems dubious.

These runs seem like the sort of thing people do before collapsing into a sweaty heap and swearing off food forever. They’re also appealing to non-runners, which seems like a recipe for sprains, strains, and other athletic injuries that happen when you’re not prepared for an intense physical activity.

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Polar Bear Plunges

Many Americans value our national reputation for being tough, resilient people. This has led to the crazy tradition of polar bear plunges – where groups of people solicit donations for charities that are contingent on them first going swimming in an ice-cold body of water like an ocean or lake.

These events often raise lots of money for good causes, but the thought of literally having to break ice in order to go into the water seems harrowing. Polar bear plunges are common around the Pacific Northwest and New England (or anywhere it gets down to freezing temperatures on a regular basis).

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Human beings knew how to defend themselves long before guns, tanks, or military helicopters were created and used in wars. Every civilization developed some sort of martial art in the past and they’re now part of their culture.