Christmas in Nebraska – Customs and Traditions

A Christmas tree in Nebraska.

The Christmas season has arrived, and if you want to make the most of it in Nebraska, you’re in for a treat. Nebraskans take their Christmas traditions and decorations seriously, and you’ll discover a wealth of customs and traditions that make this region truly exceptional.

Hannukah celebrations in Nebraska

The festive season introduces a minor Jewish holiday that is worth participating in. During this season, you’ll discover that people across the country celebrate Hanukkah. Its proximity to Christmas means you can enjoy the different cultures and traditions while awaiting Christmas Day.

Hanukkah is a celebration of Jewish traditions and their uniqueness. Over time, it has undergone significant Americanization, which means you’ll find customs such as consuming gingerbread cookies and exchanging gifts, even though these aren’t typically part of Jewish traditions.

Instead, Jewish traditions during Hanukkah often involve activities like playing dreidel, lighting the menorah, and savoring tasty treats.

Christmas food and drinks in Nebraska

The state of Nebraska boasts some of the most unique Christmas dishes and drinks. When you travel to the region, be sure to sample these distinctive offerings.


One of the most popular dishes in the region is pumpkins. They are commonly available from September through December, and people in the area enjoy them during this period. Pumpkins have become a staple around the country and are a significant part of Christmas traditions.

Pumpkin is as American as apple pies, hotdogs, and baseball. It has been incorporated into the local culture, making it an essential part of your experience when you visit the state of Nebraska. Native Americans recognized the value of this savory dish, often consumed alongside corn and beans.


In Nebraska, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until you’ve had a glass of eggnog. This frothy beverage is a holiday staple in the state, typically made with ingredients like milk, eggs, nutmeg, and aged spirits such as sherry or brandy. The tradition of eggnog can be traced back to British aristocrats, and it has continued to be a cherished part of the holiday season, not just in Nebraska but also across the Midwest and various other states.

During the colonial era in America, wine and brandy were heavily taxed, leading people to opt for modified rum and more readily available milk and eggs to make eggnog. This drink wasn’t an everyday indulgence; it was reserved for special occasions and gatherings. Over time, it became a significant and enduring tradition in the state, one that continues to be celebrated during the holiday season to this day.

Yule log

There’s something quintessentially American about curling up by the fireplace, enjoying the warmth, and sipping on your favorite drink. In modern times, you’ll often find people watching movies and keeping cozy beside a crackling fire. This is where the Yule log tradition comes into play. While it’s a custom prevalent in Europe and various parts of the world, you’ll also encounter it during your trip to the Midwest region.

During the Christmas season, many people venture into the forest to find the perfect Yule log. Once they’ve selected the right one, they’ll cut it and bring it back to their homes, where it will be placed in the fireplace. The belief is that this log should keep the home warm throughout the Christmas period. In many cases, you’ll find European immigrants in the state continuing this tradition. However, you don’t have to miss out; there’s plenty to explore during your journey through the region.

Santa Claus

In many American households, the belief in Santa Claus is a cherished tradition. Typically, people prepare the gifts they’ll place under the Christmas tree, where they can be easily found. These gifts are usually set out on Christmas Eve to be discovered on Christmas Day. Take the time to understand this tradition and seek out presents for your friends and family during this special period.

In the modern day, Santa can be spotted in shopping malls and public squares, where he generously presents gifts to children. During your visit to the region, you’ll encounter these cheerful Santas throughout the area. It’s essential to recognize that Santa plays a significant role in the culture and traditions of the region.

Gathering of the greens

The beginning of the Christmas season in Nebraska is marked by the selection of the perfect Christmas tree. This common tradition is observed in various parts of the state, with male family members venturing into the forest to find the ideal tree. Once the tree is chosen, it is cut and brought home.

The entire family participates in decorating the tree, with children getting involved in various ways to adorn it. The trees are trimmed to suit different rooms, and the decorations vary according to personal preferences and available space. In some places, a creche is placed beneath the Christmas tree, and children often enjoy observing the miniature figures.

The joy of cutting and decorating the tree is a cherished tradition in many parts of Nebraska.

No Christmas celebration is complete without festive dishes. In Nebraska, various delightful dishes are traditionally served during the Christmas season. As you travel through the region, you can savor some of these unique culinary offerings.

Sugar cookies, coffee, and fruitcakes are among the most commonly enjoyed items during the Christmas period, and you can indulge in local culinary delights during your visit to Nebraska.

Christmas dinner table in Nebraska

In various parts of Nebraska, you’ll discover an array of dishes that people relish, and you should certainly take the opportunity to explore and savor some local delicacies. Christmas dinner in the region typically includes fruit soup, lutfisk, Swedish rice pudding, and Swedish rye bread, among other dishes.

When the dinner table is set, there’s a unique tradition of leaving an extra plate at the table overnight, symbolically set for departed family members to join in the celebrations. To round off the meal, apple cookies are often served as a delightful dessert.

Christmas Eve in Nebraska

Christmas Eve holds a significant place in Nebraska’s holiday tradition. When you travel to the region, you’ll encounter unique traditions that define this special occasion. One of these traditions is the early preparation of Christmas cookies, often starting several weeks before the big day. On Christmas Eve itself, the preference is for lighter meals in anticipation of the elaborate feasts on Christmas Day.

A customary dish served on Christmas Eve is oyster stew, accompanied by Christmas Eve soup, which serves as an appetizer, whetting the appetites of those partaking in the Christmas dinner. Exploring these exceptional traditions during your visit to the region will give you a deeper appreciation for the holiday spirit.

On Christmas Eve, it’s a common practice for people to gather around the Christmas tree as they enjoy their meals. Babies and young children, in particular, are known to playfully inspect the tree, searching for hidden surprises and treats, making the evening even more magical for them.

Christmas breakfast

During this period, a traditional Christmas breakfast in Nebraska features “jule kaka” or Christmas cake. A distinctive element of this cake is the burning candle placed at its center, symbolizing the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus. This heartfelt tradition adds a meaningful touch to the morning meal, enhancing the holiday spirit.

Christmas story

During the Christmas season, the state of Nebraska embraces an important tradition of emphasizing Christmas stories related to the birth of Jesus. Many households across Nebraska actively engage children in learning and sharing these stories, highlighting the region’s unique Christmas traditions.

An advent calendar plays a significant role in this teaching, fostering an interactive approach. In a typical manger scene, you’ll find Joseph and Mary placed at one end while the wise men occupy the other. Children actively participate by moving the shepherd figurine closer to baby Jesus, symbolizing the expected arrival on Christmas Eve.

Additionally, during this season, four candles are traditionally lit, each symbolizing the advent season and the imminent arrival of Jesus’ birth. This tradition deepens the Christmas spirit in Nebraska.

Christmas carols in Nebraska

In the state of Nebraska, one cherished tradition involves teaching children Christmas carols. It’s a common practice that unites communities, as people eagerly engage in singing Christmas carols.

The holiday season often sees various competitions and caroling events taking place across the state. Holy Christmas music holds a special place in these traditions, as carols evoke a profound sense of belonging and holiday spirit.

These heartwarming carols, combined with biblical stories, create a festive atmosphere during this time of the year, enriching the holiday experience in Nebraska.

Christmas decorations in Nebraska

In Nebraska, the Christmas season offers locals the perfect opportunity to showcase their decorating skills. As you explore the region during your travels, you’ll notice houses adorned with a wide range of themes. Some families opt for traditional decorations like popcorn and cranberry garlands, while others pursue more extravagant, store-bought displays.

A common practice among families is to choose a specific Christmas theme that resonates with their traditions and preferences. This festive season, the creativity flows, and you’ll find both handmade and store-bought decorations gracing homes across the state.

Whether you decide to purchase or craft your own trinkets, this unique tradition allows you to personalize your holiday decorations, creating an exceptional Christmas experience in Nebraska.


Exchanging gifts is a time-honored tradition that you’ll discover throughout Nebraska during the Christmas season. This practice is deeply ingrained in the local culture and adds to the festive atmosphere. Beyond the usual gifts, you’ll encounter unique and thoughtful presents, like blown glass ornaments and customized items.

The ability to personalize gifts makes this tradition even more special, allowing you to tailor presents to suit each individual’s preferences. This custom enriches the holiday experience and highlights the generosity and thoughtfulness of the people in the region.


Let’s learn more about the Christmas customs in other US states:

Aurimas Bio

Hi there! I’m Aurimas, a man behind Go Look Explore. I’m passionate about hiking, exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, and everything outdoors related. Let’s connect.