These Once-Celebrated American Traditions Have All But Disappeared
Traditions are practices, beliefs, and behaviors that have been carried down throughout many generations.
As important aspects of American heritage and culture, traditions have long been celebrated in the United States. While some traditions have withstood the test of time, many of beloved customs have seemingly faded into obscurity. Here, we will take a closer look at traditions that have completely changed as time went on.
Watching a Movie at the Drive-In Theater
Drive-in movie theaters peaked in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were the hottest spots in town to catch a movie in the comfort of your own car. Not only could the entire family enjoy a night out at the drive-in, but they were also major social settings.
Everybody would be at the drive-in on a Saturday night. The best part? Carbonated beverages, popcorn, and candy could be delivered right to your vehicle. Those were the days…
Waiting to Get Pictures Developed
We may be used to seeing our photos instantly thanks to iPhones and the digital cameras that came before them, but things were a lot different back in the day.
People wanting to take photos would have to go to the store to buy a roll of film, put the film in the camera, take a series of pictures, and then return the film to the store to have it developed. This process could take days – or weeks, depending on when you actually got around to doing all of that grunt work.
Gathering Around the TV to Watch Your Favorite New Shows
A glorious part of the past was gathering around the TV to watch the latest episode of your favorite show.
Before the digital age of streaming services that allowed you to choose your programming on-demand, people only had one chance to watch their shows when they aired at a precise time on cable. While our viewing options these days are far more convenient, there was something rewarding about settling in to watch your favorite TV show at the same time as the rest of the country.
Going to the Movie Theater on a Film’s Opening Night
Movies have become so easily accessible that you can literally watch almost any film directly from your couch within seconds. If you wanted to watch a major motion picture several decades ago, you would have to take a trip to your local movie theater.
Commuting to the theater, standing in line, and buying your ticket in person were all part of the thrill. These days, going to the movies has become less appealing, but there was nothing like that age-old tradition of seeing a film on opening night on the silver screen.
Getting to Know Your Neighbors
There once was a time when there was an ever-present sense of comradery and helpfulness among neighbors.
Your childhood next-door neighbors probably knew you on a first-name basis and you could even count on them to water your flowers when you were away on vacation, or bring over a freshly cooked casserole for dinner. While there’s still a good chance that you are friendly with your current neighbors, there was nothing like that old-school feeling of a community coming together.
Sending Greeting Cards for Every Occasion
Getting a greeting card in the mail from a loved one was always a special moment. Whether you were celebrating a birthday, graduation, or a bar mitzvah, you could always congratulate people with a card from Hallmark.
Greeting cards were especially popular during the holiday season, as family and friends across the country would annually send each other Christmas cards or other holiday well-wishes. Unlike sending a text or hopping on a FaceTime call, greeting cards were physical momentos that could be treasured forever.
Carrying Cash at All Times
Credit cards, Apple Pay, and Bitcoin may be the payment methods of the present and future, but long before technology took over, cash was always king.
Few people often carry cash these days, as it’s simply easier to swipe a card or scan a barcode at the checkout counter. The pandemic also forced the use of cash out even further into the abyss, because contact-free methods of payment have quickly taken over since 2020.
Making Baked Goods From Scratch Every Week
Americans will probably never stop baking, but it was something that was done a whole lot more back in the day.
From freshly baked bread to homemade chocolate chip cookies, conjuring up sweets from scratch was a tradition that almost everyone once followed. These days, there too are many packaged baking mixes and pre-made desserts, so fewer people are inspired to whip up an All-American apple pie entirely from scratch.
Rolling Coins for Cash
It may seem like coins are forgotten forms of currency these days, but there once was a time when a few cents could buy you some candy and a bottle of pop at your local convenience store.
While coins aren’t viewed as very valuable today, people would often collect enough coins to roll up in paper rollers, which could then be redeemed at the bank. A roll of forty quarters would get you a crisp $10 bill from the bank teller. This practice has largely been eliminated by coin redemption machines that can be found inside most supermarkets.
Sunday Dinners With the Whole Family
Family dinners were once the focal point of the entire day. Gathering around the table was the one opportunity for children and adults to discuss their day and to connect over good food and good conversation.
People would spend all day in the kitchen preparing a large family-sized meal, and everyone couldn’t wait to taste the delicious creations they smelled cooking in the kitchen. Family meal time – especially on Sundays – was the cornerstone of American tradition.
Sending Kids Outside to Play
Believe it or not, there once was a time when parents would send their kids outside to play with other children from the neighborhood without a second thought. As long as they’d be home in time for dinner, most moms and dads in America would let their kids roam free instead of watching their every move.
Whether kids wound up at a friend’s house, at the local park, or just riding their bikes around the block, sending kids outside to play was once a common practice. These days, parents have gotten more cautious due to safety concerns – but we can all revel in the memories of playing with friends without a care in the world.
American Wedding Traditions
While it’s not entirely clear where they stemmed from, American wedding traditions were something that everyone had always adhered to.
From the bride wearing white on her wedding day to the groom not seeing his future wife before the big ceremony, there have been plenty of traditional wedding practices that were once considered commonplace. In present times, people can just order a blender for the bride and groom on their online registry instead of gifting them a card with some cash to put toward their starter home. Things seem a lot more impersonal these days, as opposed to the valued wedding traditions that have been followed for centuries.
Annual Family Vacations
Whether you loved them or couldn’t wait for them to be over, family vacations were a staple for many families.
Families from far and wide would pack up their suitcases and drive cross-country in their station wagons to their most beloved destinations. Whether you were heading to a tropical oasis or to a kid-friendly theme park, American families always came together once a year to take a break from school and work to enjoy each other’s company.
Seasonal Holidays Being Celebrated at the Right Times
Hopefully, holidays are one American tradition that will never go out of style. But what has changed over the years is the timing for which certain holidays are promoted.
As a fall holiday, Halloween has always been in October – but nowadays it’s not uncommon to see Halloween candy show up in stores during the summer months. Traditionally, most U.S. stores would close during important holidays, whereas now, certain stores make their employees work during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Staying at the Same Job for a Lifetime
While keeping the same job for the majority of your life sounds like a serious buzzkill, it’s something that traditionally occurred at one time.
People often spent fifty years or more with the same employer – and their decades of loyal service was something to be celebrated. Kids fresh out of high school would get a job at the local diner, shop, or town hall and then slowly work their way up the company ladder. These days, having a very diverse work history on your LinkedIn page is something that most people strive for.