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The development of the culture of the United States of AmericaHistory, Holidays, Sports, Religion, Cuisine, Literature, Poetry, Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Cinema, and Architecture — has been marked by a tension between two strong sources of inspiration: European ideals, especially British, and domestic originality.

American culture encompasses traditions, ideals, customs, beliefs, values, arts, and innovations developed both domestically and imported via colonization and immigration. Prevalent ideas and ideals from the European continent such as Democracy, capitalism, various forms of Monotheism, and Civil liberties are present as well as those which evolved domestically such as important National holidays, uniquely American sports, proud military tradition, innovations in the arts and entertainment, and a strong sense of national pride among the population as a whole.

It includes both conservative and liberal elements, military and scientific competitiveness, political structures, risk taking and free expression, materialist and moral elements.

It also includes elements which evolved from Native Americans, and other ethnic subcultures; most prominently the culture of former African-American slaves and different cultures from Latin America. Many cultural elements, especially popular culture have been exported across the globe through modern mass media where American culture is sometimes resented. A few of the cultural elements have remained rather exclusive to North America.


Although the country has no official language at the federal level, 30 states have passed legislation making English the official language.

According to the 2007 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by over 34 million people aged 5 or older. Many live in the border states with Mexicomarker but also significantly in Floridamarker, Illinoismarker, and New Yorkmarker as well as other areas. Additionally, Spanish is co-official next to English in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Bilingual speakers may use both English and Spanish reasonably well but code-switch according to their dialog partner or context. Some refer to this phenomenon as Spanglish.

Native American languages such as Navajo are used in Arizonamarker and New Mexicomarker, while numerous other indigenous languages are spoken on the country’s numerous Indian reservations and Native American cultural events such as Pow wows. There are also numerous minority languages spoken among immigrant populations.

Hawaiian is official next to English in the state of Hawaii. In the US commonwealths of Guammarker and the Northern Mariana Islandsmarker, Chamorro is co-official next to English. The Northern Mariana Islands also recognizes Carolinian in an official capacity. Also, Samoan is co-official in the US commonwealth of American Samoamarker.

The American variety of English contains numerous loan words from European, Native American, Asian and African languages, that frequently also enter other varieties of English through American English.


In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American art and literature took most of its cues from Europe. Writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary voice by the middle of the nineteenth century. Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman were major figures in the century's second half; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, would be recognized as America's other essential poet. Eleven U.S. citizens have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently Toni Morrison in 1993. Ernest Hemingway, the 1954 Nobel laureate, is often named as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national experience and character—such as Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great American Novel". Popular literary genres such as the Western and hardboiled crime fiction were developed in the United States.


[[Image:Saint Patrick front1.jpg|thumb|right|Surrounded by sleek modern skyscrapers, Saint Patrick's Cathedralmarker stands as the lastold world holdout of New York's Rockefeller Plazamarker]]Among developed countries, the US is one of the most religious in terms of its demographics. According to a 2002 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the US was the only developed nation in the survey where a majority of citizens reported that religion played a "very important" role in their lives, an attitude similar to that found in its neighbors in Latin America.

Several of the original Thirteen Colonies were established by English and Irish settlers who wished to practice their own religion without discrimination or persecution as religious extremists in Europe: Pennsylvania was established by Quakers, Maryland by Roman Catholics and the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Puritans. Nine of the thirteen colonies had official public religions. Yet by the time of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, the United States became one of the first countries in the world to enact freedom of religion by way of a codified separation of church and state.

Modeling the provisions concerning religion within the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the framers of the United States Constitution rejected any religious test for office, and the First Amendment specifically denied the central government any power to enact any law respecting either an establishment of religion, or prohibiting its free exercise. In following decades, the animating spirit behind the constitution's Establishment Clause led to the disestablishment of the official religions within the member states. The framers were mainly influenced by secular, Enlightenment ideals, but they also considered the pragmatic concerns of minority religious groups who did not want to be under the power or influence of a state religion that did not represent them. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence said "The priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot."

Religious statistics for the United States

It should be noted the following information is a ballpark estimate as actual statistics constantly vary.

According to the CIA, the following is the percentage of followers of different religions in the United States:
  • Christians: (78.5%)
    • Protestant (51.3%)
    • Roman Catholic (23.9%)
    • Mormon (1.7%)
    • other Christian (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated (12.1%)
  • none (4%)
  • other or unspecified (2.5%)
  • Jewish (1.7%)
  • Buddhist (0.7%)
  • Muslim (0.1%)

National holidays

The United States observes holidays and traditions that are derived from significant events in US history, Religious traditions, and National Patriarchs.

As a legacy of colonization, Thanksgiving has become a traditional American holiday which evolved from the will of English pilgrims to “give thanks” for their welfare. Today, Thanksgiving is generally celebrated as a family reunion with a large afternoon feast. European colonization has led to many traditional Christian holidays such as Easter, Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas to be widely observed albeit they are celebrated in a secular manner by many people today.

Independence Day (colloquially known as the Fourth of July) celebrates the anniversary of the country’s Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britainmarker. It is generally observed by parades throughout the day and the shooting of fireworks at night.

Halloween is thought to have evolved from the ancient celtic festival of Samhain which was introduced in the American colonies by Irish settlers. It has become a holiday that is widely celebrated by children and teens who traditionally dress up in costumes and go door to door saying the words “Trick or Treat” in exchange for candy. It also brings about an emphasis on eerie and frightening urban legends and movies.

Additionally, Mardi Gras, which evolved from the Catholic tradition of Carnival, is observed notably in New Orleansmarker, St. Louis, and Mobile, ALmarker as well as numerous other towns. Texasmarker still observes the anniversary of its Independence Day from Mexico.

Federally recognized holidays are as follows:

Date Official Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Celebrates beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include counting down to midnight (12:00 AM) on the preceding night, New Year's Eve. Traditional end of holiday season.
Third Monday in January Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader, who was actually born on January 15, 1929; combined with other holidays in several states.
January 20, the first January 20 following a Presidential election Inauguration Day Observed only by federal government employees in Washington D.C.marker, and the border counties of Marylandmarker and Virginiamarker, in order to relieve congestion that occurs with this major event. Swearing-in of President of the United States and Vice President of the United States. Celebrated every fourth year. Note: Takes place on January 21 if the 20th is a Sunday (although the President is still privately inaugurated on the 20th). If Inauguration Day falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, the preceding Friday or following Monday is not a Federal Holiday
Third Monday in February Washington's Birthday Washington's Birthday was first declared a federal holiday by an 1879 act of Congress. The Uniform Holidays Act, 1968, shifted the date of the commemoration of Washington's Birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Many people now refer to this holiday as "Presidents' Day" and consider it a day honoring all American presidents. However, neither the Uniform Holidays Act nor any subsequent law changed the name of the holiday from Washington's Birthday to Presidents' Day.
Last Monday in May Memorial Day Honors the nation's war dead from the Civil War onwards; marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season. (traditionally May 30, shifted by the Uniform Holidays Act 1968)
July 4 Independence Day Celebrates Declaration of Independence, also called the Fourth of July.
First Monday in September Labor Day Celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement; marks the unofficial end of the summer season.
Second Monday in October Columbus Day Honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discoverer of the Americas. In some areas it is also a celebration of Italianmarker culture and heritage. (traditionally October 12); celebrated as American Indian Heritage Day and Fraternal Day in Alabamamarker; celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakotamarker. In Hawaii, it is celebrated as Discoverer's Day, though is not an official state holiday.
November 11 Veterans Day Honors all veterans of the United States armed forces. A traditional observation is a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. remembering those killed in war. (Commemorates the 1918 armistice, which began at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.")
Fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day Traditionally celebrates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest. Traditionally includes the consumption of a turkey dinner. Traditional start of the holiday season.
December 25 Christmas Celebrates the Nativity of Jesus. Some people consider aspects of this religious holiday, such as giving gifts and decorating a Christmas tree, to be secular rather than explicitly Christian.


Mainstream American culinary arts are similar to those in other Western countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain. Traditional American cuisine uses ingredients such as turkey, white-tailed deer venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, indigenous foods employed by American Indians and early European settlers. Slow-cooked pork and beef barbecue, crab cakes, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies are distinctively American styles. Soul food, developed by African slaves, is popular around the South and among many African Americans elsewhere. Syncretic cuisines such as Louisiana creole, Cajun, and Tex-Mex are regionally important. Iconic American dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants and domestic innovations. So-called French fries, Mexican dishes such as burritos and tacos, and pasta dishes freely adapted from Italian sources are widely consumed. Americans generally prefer coffee to tea, with more than half the adult population drinking at least one cup a day. Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk (now often fat-reduced) ubiquitous breakfast beverages. During the 1980s and 1990s, Americans' caloric intake rose 24%; frequent dining at fast food outlets is associated with what health officials call the American "obesity epidemic." Highly sweetened soft drinks are widely popular; sugared beverages account for 9% of the average American's daily caloric intake.
Common American Foods
File:Thanksgiving Dinner Alc2.jpg|Traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce.File:Long John Silver's Sampler.JPG|Typical American seafood with Fried fish, shrimp, hush puppies, and fries.File:CaesarSalad3.jpg|Caesar salad.File:Burger King Whopper Combo.jpg|Hamburger, fries, and a coke.File:Flickr wordridden 3397801155--Chicken fried steak.jpg|Chicken Fried Steak (alternatively known as Country Fried Steak.)File:California club pizza.jpg|California club pizza with avocados and tomatoes.File:QuiznosSub.jpg|Toasted turkey sandwich.File:Dennysbreakfast.jpg|American style breakfast with pancakes, maple syrup, sausage links, bacon strips, and fried eggs.


Sports in the United Statesmarker are an important part of the American culture. However, the sporting culture of the U.S. is unique from that of many other countries. Compared to any other nation, American preferences for sports differ from the rest of the world. For example, soccer, the most popular sport in the world, is not nearly as popular in the United States.

Baseball is the oldest of the major American teamsports. Professional baseball dates from 1869 and had no close rivals in popularity until the 1960s; though baseball is no longer the most popular sport it is still referred to as the "national pastime." Also unlike the professional levels of the other popular spectator sports in the U.S., Major League Baseball teams play almost every day from April to October. American football now attracts more television viewers than baseball; however, National Football League teams play only 16 regular-season games each year, so baseball is the runaway leader in ticket sales.

Basketball is another major sport, represented professionally by the National Basketball Association. Invented in Springfield, Massachusettsmarker 1891, by Canadian-born physical education teacher James Naismith, basketball ranks sixth in popularity behind professional football, baseball, college football, auto racing, and hockey.

American football, known in many anglophone countries as gridiron, is widely considered to be the most popular sport in the United States. The 32-team National Football League (NFL) is the most popular and only major professional American football league. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, is the biggest annual sporting event held in the United States. Additional millions also watch college football throughout the autumn months, and some communities, particularly in rural areas, place great emphasis on their local high school team. American football games usually include cheerleaders and marching bands which aim to raise school spirit and entertain the crowd at half-time.

Most Americans recognize a fourth major sport - Ice hockey. Always a mainstay of Great Lakesmarker and New Englandmarker-area culture, the sport gained tenuous footholds in regions like the American South in recent years, as the National Hockey League pursued a policy of expansion.

The quickly growing sport of mixed martial arts has taken off in America since its introduction in the early 1990s. Today, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is one of the most profitable organizations in the country.

Sports and community culture

Homecoming is an annual tradition of the United Statesmarker. People, towns, high schools and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back former residents and alumni. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet, a parade, and most often, a game of American football, or, on occasion, basketball, or ice hockey. When celebrated by schools, the activities vary widely. However, they usually consist of a football game played on the school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a parade featuring the school's marching band and sports teams, and the coronation of a Homecoming Queen (and at many schools, a Homecoming King).


There is a fondness for scientific advancement and technological innovation in American culture. Some of these efforts are centered in Silicon Valleymarker. Other strong scientific areas include nuclear research, space (NASAmarker), military research, and biotech. Respect for scientific advancement still ranks high in the US and the element of competitiveness is exercised as early as in elementary school.

American culture has also made significant gains through the immigration of accomplished scientists. For example, numerous members of the European intelligentsia emigrated during World War Two to escape Fascist persecution. At the time, the U.S. was one of the few safe countries to flee to.

Visual arts

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Developments in modern art in Europe came to America from exhibitions in New York City such as the Armory Showmarker in 1913. After World War II, New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world. Painting in the United States today covers a vast range of styles.


Architecture in the US is regionally diverse and has been shaped by many external forces, not only English. US Architecture can therefore be said to be eclectic, something unsurprising in such a multicultural society. In the absence of a single large-scale architectural influence from indigenous peoples such as those in Mexico or Peru, generations of designers have incorporated influences from around the world. Currently, the overriding theme of American Architecture is modernity: an example of which are the skyscrapers of the 20th century.

Early Neoclassicism accompanied the Founding Father's idealization of European Enlightenment, making it the predominant architectural style for public buildings and large manors. However, in recent years, the suburbanization and mass migration to the sunbeltmarker has allowed architecture to reflect a Meditteranean style as well.


The history of sculpture in the United States reflects the country's 18th century foundation in Roman republican civic values as well as Protestant Christianity. Perhaps the most iconic American sculpture is Mount Rushmore National Memorialmarker, an 18m high relief of four US Presidents' faces carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore.

Popular culture

American popular culture has expressed itself through nearly every medium, including movies, music, and sports.

Mickey Mouse, Barbie, Michael Jackson,Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Michael Phelps, Andre Agassi, Aerosmith, Babe Ruth, Baseball, American football, Basketball, screwball comedy, G.I. Joe, jazz, the blues, Rap & Hip Hop, The Simpsons, Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Gone with the Wind, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Michael Jordan, Indiana Jones, Sylvester Stalone, Sesame Street, Catch-22—these names, genres, and phrases have joined more tangible American products in spreading across the globe.

The U.S. is also popular for evolving/adapting many elements of various other cultures, such as food (i.e. pizza, hamburgers, and hibachi), and television shows (American Idol, Power Rangers).


Apart from professional business attire, fashion in the United States is eclectic and predominantly informal. Blue jeans were popularized as work clothes in the 1850s by merchant Levi Strauss, a German immigrant in San Francisco, and adopted by many American teenagers a century later. They are now widely worn in every state by people of all ages and social classes. Along with mass-marketed informal wear in general, blue jeans are arguably U.S. culture's primary contribution to global fashion. The country was also home to the headquarters of many leading designer labels such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Labels such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Hollister, and Eckō cater to various niche markets.

Further iconic items of American fashion are the T-Shirt and the Baseball cap.


Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from the performance styles prevalent in Europe, especially England. Today, it is heavily interlaced with American literature, film, television, and music, and it is not uncommon for a single story to appear in all forms. Regions with significant music scenes often have strong theater and comedy traditions as well. Musical theater may be the most popular form: it is certainly the most colorful, and choreographed motions pioneered on stage have found their way onto movie and television screens. Broadwaymarker in New York City is generally considered the pinnacle of commercial U.S. theater, though this art form appears all across the country. Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway diversify the theatre experience in New York. Another city of particular note is Chicagomarker, which boasts the most diverse and dynamic theater scene in the country. Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons. Even tiny rural communities sometimes awe audiences with extravagant productions.


Television is one of the major mass media of the United States. Ninety-seven percent of American households have at least one television set and the majority of households have more than three.

The US can be said to be the homeland of modern network television.


American contemporary music can be heard all over the world, through MTV, Channel V, VH1 and by artists such as Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Joel, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, , Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Randy Newman, Madonna, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, Aerosmith, B. B. King, The Doors, Prince, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Van Halen, Garth Brooks, and The Ramones. American popular music also contains many styles of music that developed in the US and were popular music when they came up (or still are). Examples are Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop, Swing, Jazz, Blues, Country, R&B, Funk, and various others.


American films and television shows are also very popular, including icons like Star Wars, The Godfather, Schindler's List, Titanic and The Matrix. American movie actors and actresses are widely recognized such as Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise. Outside the US, American Film is usually referred to in a generalizing manner as Hollywood.


There is great variety in dance in the United States, it is the home of the Lindy Hop and its derivative Rock and Roll, and modern square dance (associated with the United States of Americamarker due to its historic development in that country—nineteen U.S. states have designated it as their official state dance) and one of the major centers for modern dance. There is a variety of social dance and concert or performance dance forms with also a range of traditions of Native American dances.


  1. Meyers, Jeffrey (1999). Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Da Capo, p. 139. ISBN 0-306-80890-0.
  2. Marsden, George M. 1990. Religion and American Culture. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, pp.45-46.
  6. Smith, Andrew F. (2004). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 131–32. ISBN 0-19-515437-1. Levenstein, Harvey (2003). Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, pp. 154–55. ISBN 0-520-23439-1.
  7. Dell Upton. 1998. "Architecture in the United States-Oxford history of art". pp. 11 ff. ISBN 019284217X
  8. Davis, Fred (1992). Fashion, Culture, and Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 69. ISBN 0-226-13809-7.

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