10 American Traditions That Shock the Rest of the World

Traditions are unique customs that contribute to a country’s legacy. They are what makes the country different from the others and I think that it is interesting to learn about each country’s traditions and compare them to those of other countries. But, of course, each country has its own weird traditions as well.

In this article, we have 10 American traditions that may shock the rest of the world.

american traditions
Photo by Sean Locke Photography from Shutterstock

1. Tailgate Parties

Tailgate parties are social events held around the tailgates of vehicles. They are usually held before certain events, but it is not uncommon to be held after, either. At first, they were characteristic to sporting events, such as American football and later on basketball, hockey and baseball, but now they also take place before other events, such as concerts or weddings.

Tailgate parties are held in parking lots and involve drinking alcohol and eating barbecues. Usually, people bring their own drinks and food, which is then shared with everyone attending the party.

2. Watching Super Bowl Commercials

While most people hate it when their favorite show or movie is interrupted by a commercial, Americans aren’t that bothered by it, especially if it’s a Super Bowl commercial.
Americans find the game’s ads entertaining, and, according to a poll realized by Ipsos in 2022, “The number of people overall who say they’re excited about ads is up 5 percentage points from last year when 37% said they were excited.”

3. Celebrating the American Dream

The term “American dream” was popularized by James Truslow Adams in 1931, but it was invented years before and was part of the American culture. It represents the ability of
Americans to set a path of freedom and ensure that the next generation will do better and live in a better world.

The values that the Americans want to achieve and name as “The American Dream” change along with the society’s evolution, but that is exactly what The American Dream means- hoping for a better future. So, to celebrate their wish for a better life, they remain faithful to The American Dream and celebrate it every year.

4. Pumpkin Chunkin

Pumpkin Chunkin is a competition held in November and involves throwing a pumpkin using mechanic means only. Some of the devices used during this competition are slingshots, catapults, and trebuchets. While it might sound weird for us, Americans take it seriously.

The Guinness World Records also took it seriously and awarded a shot made by “Big 10 inch”, a pneumatic cannon, which shot a pumpkin at approximately 5.5ft. The event is organized independently and has annual contests in cities such as New York, Clayton, Bald Eagle State Park and Pennsylvania. The competition is also considered a way to get rid of the excess of pumpkins from Halloween.

5. Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey

It is believed that the tradition of giving a turkey to the White House began in 1870 when Horace Vose began sending turkeys to the White House every year. Although the family didn’t always sacrifice the birds, they were always well received. The era ended in 1913 when Horace Vose died.

By 1914, everyone was allowed to send a turkey to the president. From 1947 to 1978, only a few turkeys were sent to the White House and some of them were sent to farms.

Former President George H. W. Bush was the first White House member who publicly pardoned a turkey in 1989: “But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy — he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now — and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.”

6. Groundhog Day

Another surprising American tradition is Groundhog Day. According to the tradition, if a groundhog comes out on February 2nd and sees its shadow, it will go back underground and that would mean six more weeks of winter. If, on the contrary, it doesn’t see its shadow, it means an early spring.

The tradition was inspired by the Christian tradition of Candlemas when clergy would give blessed candles for the winter. According to the tradition, the candles represented how long the winter would be. This tradition was brought over by the Germans who moved to Pennsylvania.

Originally, they were using hedgehogs, but they switched to groundhogs as they were more common in Keystone State.

7. America’s obsession with pumpkins

By now, we all know that as soon as fall comes, Americans get crazy about pumpkins. But why? Well, during the war, when Americans were short on food supplies, they realized that they had lots of pumpkins and could make good use of them.

So, they began to integrate pumpkins into their meals, which eventually became a tradition for them.

8. Baby showers

Baby showers are a new invention. But giving gifts to the new parents is an old tradition. In Ancient Greece and Egypt, the mother and the baby were celebrated during rituals and
offerings were made to different gods. In the Middle Ages, the presents were given during the baptism of the baby.

That being said, a baby shower is a party that takes place before the baby is born and represents an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the birth of the baby and offer presents to the parents.

9. “Trials of the Century”

Americans love good, shocking news, and their journalists are more than happy to give them what they want. The “trials of the century” are regular court cases that the media finds intriguing and presents them in a way that will make them seem better than the previous ones.

The other trials of the century are forgotten as soon as a new one appears, as they consider the new one much more repugnant – hence, better- than the previous ones. They are often court cases that involve celebrities. But sometimes, these trials also turn regular people into celebrities, just not in a good way.

10. Cherry pit spitting

Cherry pit spitting is a sport for amateurs. During the competition, the contestants have to eat the cherry and spit the pit as far as they can. The competition is quite old and takes place in countries such as Canada, Germany and France. According to the Guinness World records, the record for cherry pit spitting distance is 93.5ft and was set in 2004 by Brian “Young Gun” Krause.

Although many of us might see it as a bizarre thing, Americans take it seriously. A lot of events have a cherry pit spitting contest, such as the annual National Cherry Festival in Young NSW. And the sport itself has a lot of competitions in various regions: The Manjimup cherry spit competition in Manjimup, The Witzenhausen Cherry pit spit competition in Germany and the Canadian National Pit Spit Championship in Canada.

Of course, America has a lot of shocking traditions that are worth mentioning, some of them even more shocking than the ones mentioned in this article. I think that these traditions which we simply can’t understand are what make America and its countries so interesting and original.

If you liked this one, this should be your next read: American Traditions We Don’t Follow Anymore

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