Are You an Expert in American Traditions?

By: Emily Maggrett
Estimated Completion Time
6 min
Are You an Expert in American Traditions?
Image: Sharon Vos-Arnold / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

The United States has more than its fair share of unusual traditions. Because American society is highly multicultural, Americans observe many types of customs, from religious rituals to inherited immigrant traditions to Native American- and Mesoamerican-derived practices. 

Of course, the customs you grew up with vary greatly depending on where you were raised. Folks in Utah likely don't understand what a Maine bean suppah is, while Mainers would be hard-pressed to guess what goes into Southwest favorite frog eye salad. May crownings aren't celebrated very often in Washington State, while most Southerners are horrified by the very concept of the New Yorker's delight, a polar bear plunge.

Do you consider yourself to be extremely knowledgeable about American traditions from all 50 states? If so, we think you'll be delighted with this quiz. We've put together several challenging trivia questions about America's many rituals, holidays and superstitions. Be warned: these questions will test the expertise of even the most experienced Americana masters. If you get half of them right, we'll be incredibly impressed! So, are you ready to prove that you know America inside and out? Hit pause on whatever else you're doing and play this quiz!

1 polar bear plunge
Paul Sounders / DigitalVision / Getty Images
Do you know what a polar bear plunge is?
A dive from a very high height
The term New Englanders use for skinnydipping
A winter swimming event, usually held for charity
The Maine version of skin-diving
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This winter swimming event might seem crazy, but people across the Northern U.S. have made the Polar Bear Plunge an annual ritual. One of the largest plunges takes place in Long Beach, New York, on Super Bowl Sunday. Since 1998, this event has raised significant funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

2 autumn
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When autumn comes, how do Americans celebrate it?
By setting a Wicker Man on fire
They go pumpkin picking.
By wrapping their gourds in colorful scarves
They eat jam and bread in celebration of Saint Autumn's Day.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Native to North America, pumpkins are a uniquely Yankee foodstuff. Although other cuisines use pumpkin in savory recipes, Americans mostly eat it in soup and pie form. Nonetheless, fall pumpkin picking is an important American ritual, as it helps families get ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

3 king cake
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Do you know what a king cake looks like?
It's a three-tier all-white cake topped by an edible gold crown.
It's a royal purple cake with white and gold icing.
It's a green, gold and purple cake with a tiny plastic baby hidden somewhere in its center.
It's a red and gold four-tier cake with a gold coin baked into its batter.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

King cakes are a Mardi Gras tradition! Made of brioche dough and decorated with royal Mardi Gras colors, king cakes also contain baby figurines. According to Louisiana superstition, the person who finds the baby in their slice of cake will be blessed with good luck.

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4 easter eggs
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Southerners hang Easter eggs on which unusual object?
A coat rack
A ladder
An indoor tree
A chandelier
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Every spring, many Southerners choose to decorate their trees with Easter eggs. This tradition is German in origin, but Americans have made it their own by using indoor trees rather than outdoor trees, and by using plastic eggs in lieu of the real kind.

5 community meal
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What's served at a Maine "bean suppah"?
Bean soup, codfish balls, brown bread, Waldorf salad and apple pie
Bean and ham stew, crab cakes, cornbread, green beans and ice cream
Baked beans, Parker House rolls, frankfurters, slaw and corn pudding
Three-bean salad, lobster rolls, creamed corn, peas and pumpkin pie
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A centuries-old tradition, Maine's bean suppahs are community meals that often take place at churches. The menu for a bean suppah is usually filled with foodstuffs that grow easily in Maine, such as yellow-eye or navy beans, corn and cabbage.

6 dinner time
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In the U.S., what time do people normally eat dinner?
8 p.m.
7 p.m.
6 p.m.
9 p.m.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

While most Americans think it's normal to eat dinner at 6 p.m., the rest of the world does not agree! Most Europeans dine at 8 p.m., while people in Spain eat dinner between 9 p.m. and midnight.

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7 chili con carne
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Although this dish was invented by Mexican-American women from Texas, dads everywhere love to compete at cooking it. What are we talking about?
Tamale pie
Chili con carne
Beer can chicken
Fajitas
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

American dads love chili con carne. Many of them enjoy celebrating this flavorful Tex-Mex stew via competitive chili cook-offs. Hundreds of chili cook-offs are held across the United States each year, some of them judged by professional chefs.

8 mud run
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A mud run is ... ?
A marathon that's usually performed by women wearing mud masks
Slang for the practice of plowing one's fields
A foot race with a number of obstacles, including a mud pit
A poker move that involves going all-in on a low pair, such as twos
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It's unclear when mud runs began, but they've become one of the most popular types of American races. Participants have to slog through several obstacles, including a mud pit. Perhaps because of their ridiculous nature, mud runs attract more families than other types of races or marathons.

9 visiting someones home
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When visiting someone else's home, what should you bring with you?
A small hostess gift, such as a plant or bottle of wine
A side dish or dessert
Fresh flowers
A gift for the children
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

While a gift for the children or a side dish might be welcomed by your hosts, most Americans don't bring such things with them when they dine at each other's homes. Instead, Americans bring a "hostess gift," which is usually an inexpensive decoration or edible present.

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10 thanksgiving
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At a New England Thanksgiving, which set of traditional dishes would you definitely expect to see?
Creamed onions, oyster and cornbread stuffing and hasty pudding
Gingered cranberry sauce, glazed carrots and venison
Clam dip, apple cider and cheddar biscuits
Bacon-wrapped scallops, stuffed mushrooms and blueberry pie
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

New England's Thanksgiving dishes reflect this region's colonial roots. Creamed onions originated in England, while oyster stuffing is a Pilgrim tradition that stems from New England's plentiful seafood. Hasty pudding, a type of corn dessert, was also invented by the Pilgrims.

11 house painting
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In the South, which part of their houses do people paint "haint blue"?
Their window sills
Their roofs
Their porch ceilings
Their doorsteps
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In the Carolina Low Country, some people believe that ghosts, or "haints," can't cross water. They paint their porch ceilings blue, in simulation of water, to prevent these spirits from entering their homes. Outside of South Carolina, many Southerners have taken up this practice.

12 black friday
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The day after Thanksgiving is a major shopping day in the U.S. What's it called?
Big Monday
November Madness
Black Friday
Giving Tuesday
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Retailers have been holding day after Thanksgiving sales on the day after Thanksgiving since the early '50s, but this event only recently became known as Black Friday. Although stores advertise Black Friday as if it's a well-established tradition, it didn't become the busiest shopping day of the year until 2005.

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13 second line parade
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A Southern tradition, this custom allows parade viewers to join in the fun. What's its name?
The Second Line
Parade Plus
Jamboree-ing
Getting marchy
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Second Line is a custom that originated in New Orleans. It sanctions the practice of bystanders joining parades after the official parade performers have passed by. An African-American tradition, members of the Second Line usually parade in African-based dance styles.

14 new years meal
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The traditional New Year's Day meal in Pennsylvania is ...
Pork and sauerkraut
A Philly cheesesteak sandwich with potato salad and chips
Smoked herring fishcakes with potato leek soup
Bacon and apple pancakes with knockwurst
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The cuisine of Pennsylvania has been heavily influenced by the culinary traditions of the Dutch and German immigrants who settled there. Hence, Pennsylvanians often eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day, as Dutch folklore holds that this will bring them prosperity.

15 decoration day
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How would you define "Decoration Day"?
It's slang for the Fourth of July.
It's the unofficial term for Dec. 1, the day when most Americans put up Christmas lights.
It's the day when you decorate loved one's graves.
It's what Gen Z kids call the day before the last day of school.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Rural Southern communities, especially in Alabama, observe "Decoration Day" on the same date as Memorial Day. For this holiday, Southerners clean their loved one's graves, placing flowers by their headstones.

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16 zion curtain
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This American state requires restaurants to put a curtain around their bars. Can you guess which state has this law?
Massachusetts
Utah
Arkansas
Nebraska
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Utah's largely Mormon population has traditionally frowned on alcohol consumption. Because of this, Utah restaurants that serve alcohol are required to put up a "Zion curtain" partition that screens bartenders from the sight of patrons. Zion curtain laws were partially reformed in 2017.

17 burning sage
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This tradition, which is Native American in origin, is used by some Westerners to "purify" their homes. What is it?
Feng shui
Salting
Burning sage
Cleansing with crystals
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Burning sage, or "smudging," was invented by several Native American groups, including the Lakota, Chumash and Cahuilla peoples. It involves directing sage smoke through all the rooms of a house, in order to cleanse it of bad energies. Recent studies have found that sage smoke is antibacterial.

18 easter dinner
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What do Southerners eat on Easter?
Glazed ham, potato salad, Jello salad, deviled eggs and sweet tea
Green onion risotto, arugula salad and pineapple upside-down cake
Quiche, waffles, biscuits and fruit salad
Fried chicken, pasta salad, stewed greens and boiled peanuts
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Although many Americans don't care for them, Southerners are quite fond of deviled eggs. They eat them on Easter, alongside other dishes that generally aren't served hot, such as Jello salad, potato salad and ham.

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19 bonfire
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A Cajun custom, this tradition involves building Christmas bonfires along which river?
The Rio Grande
Colorado River
The Mississippi River
Red River
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Southerners rarely get to enjoy a white Christmas, so they have to find novel ways to celebrate the holiday. On Christmas Eve, many Cajuns light bonfires along the Mississippi River, in the belief that this will "light the way" for Santa.

20 noodling
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Do you know what "noodling" is?
"Noodling" means "eating noodles," right?
To "noodle" is to mess around on a guitar.
It refers to the art of catching a catfish with your arm.
"Noodling" is a synonym for meddling.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Mostly practiced in the Southern U.S., "noodling" is a type of fishing that involves catching catfish without any gear or equipment. To perform it, the noodler puts their hand near a catfish hole. When the catfish swims out, it gets impaled on the noodler's arm.

21 line dancing
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This choreographed dance can be done with or without a partner. What's it called?
Ballet
Vogueing
Country line dancing
Swing dancing
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A uniquely American dance form, country line dancing is the descendant of contra folk dancing. Its participants line up and perform pre-planned moves while facing in the same direction. In the '80s, specific country line dances were invented for hit country songs, such as "Achy Breaky Heart."

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22 frog eye salad
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If you're from the Southwest, you definitely know what frog eye salad is ... Or do you?
It's a pomegranate and blood orange salad served with poppyseed dressing.
It's a slang term for French fries served with nacho toppings.
It's not a salad at all. Instead, it's a California coffee drink made from bubble tea and espresso.
It's a salad made of pasta, pineapples, mandarin oranges, Cool Whip and marshmallow topping.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Frog eye salad hails from Utah, but has spread to surrounding states, including California, New Mexico and Arizona. It's a sweet pasta salad made from acini di pepe pasta, canned fruit, marshmallows and (sometimes) egg yolks. While its name is less than appetizing, this unique recipe has many fans.

23 sweat lodge
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When non-Native Americans tried to make money from this tradition, they were sued by the Lakota Nation. Can you guess which custom we're talking about?
Performing stomp dances
Holding a pow wow
Visiting a sweat lodge
Going on a vision quest
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A religious tradition of the Plains Indians, sweat lodges are used for healing ceremonies. In 2009, the Angel Valley Retreat Center caused the deaths of three people by conducting a fraudulent sweat lodge event. The Lakota Nation subsequently sued them.

24 kentucky derby
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Females who want to attend this American horse race are required to wear which item of clothing?
Stockings
A skirt
A hat
Riding boots
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

According to USA Today, when the first Kentucky Derby was held at Churchhill Downs, its managers contacted local women's clubs and invited them to attend while wearing their fanciest outfits. Decades later, this tradition continues, with hats featuring roses being especially favored by attendees.

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25 shivaree
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Some Americans still practice this tradition, which involves banging pots and pans outside a newly married couple's home on their wedding night. Do you know what it's called?
A tremoring
A catamaran
A shivaree
A midnight gloaming
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A folk custom that takes the form of a rude wedding night serenade, shivarees are a Midwestern frontier tradition. They're not intended to be hostile; instead, they're a sort of community prank on newlyweds.

26 thank you notes
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According to most Americans, what type of occasions warrant a thank-you note?
Being given a job interview or wedding gift
Staying at someone else's home for more than a day
Being given a job interview or an especially expensive birthday present
Someone writing you a letter of recommendation
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In an ideal world, Americans would write thank-you notes for all of the above occasions. However, in the modern era, the occasions seen as most deserving of a thank-you note are being given a wedding gift or being granted a job interview, as these are both potentially life-changing events.

27 rocky horror
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When this movie is screened, American viewers all over the country dress up as its characters and perform skits as it plays. What's its name?
"Fame"
"The Wizard of Oz"
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
"Hocus Pocus"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thanks to its huge cult following, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is longest-running release in film history. After hitting the big screen in 1975, this classic film spurred fans to turn attending it into a ritual, complete with costumes and scripted audience responses.

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28 may crowning
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Can you define what a "May crowning" is?
It's what Southerners call a Sunday dinner that features spring lamb, peas and new potatoes.
It's slang term for the act of sowing peas.
It's a Roman Catholic ritual honoring the Virgin Mary as the Queen of May.
It's a spring beauty pageant that's held annually in the Northeast.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Many Roman Catholic Americans still celebrate May crowning, a spring ritual celebrating the Virgin Mary. Held on May 1, it involves young girls marching in procession while carrying flowers, which they use to adorn a statue of Mary. For the rest of May, these flowers are continually replaced.

29 cruising
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Americans love driving so much that we have a word for the activity of driving aimlessly. It's called _________.
Meandering
Zooming
Chilling
Cruising
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Cruising first became popular in the '40s, when it started to be common for American teenagers to have their own cars. It quickly evolved into its own culture, with special cruising "strips" being designated as especially fun cruising sites. Today, some cities still have laws against cruising.

30 picking party
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Have you ever been to a "picking party"?
No, and that sounds gross!
Are you talking about a berry-picking party? If so, yes.
I have no idea what that is, so no.
Yeah! It's basically a guitar and banjo jam.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

According to the Washington Post, a picking party is a gathering "where people use musical instruments to speak to each other." Common in states where country and bluegrass music are played, picking parties continue to be popular across the U.S.

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31 day of the dead
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After Halloween, some American communities celebrate this holiday, which has its origin in Mexico. Can you name it?
The Day of the Dead
Walpurgis Night
All Saints Day
Hungry Ghost Festival
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Also known as El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2. In Aztec tradition, it's believed that this is the day when the gates of heaven are open and the dead can visit their families. Participants serve their loved one's favorite food, so that they can "dine" together.

32 spam in sushi
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In Hawaii, sushi is sometimes made with which canned ingredient?
Olives
Spam
Asparagus
Tuna
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Spam sushi was invented by Japanese-American internment camp prisoners during World War II, but spread quickly across Hawaii, thanks to the large military presence in the Aloha State at the time. Called Spam musubi, Spam sushi is still a popular snack today.

33 burning man
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Can you recall the name of this radical American arts festival, which takes place in Nevada every year?
Coachella
Stagecoach
Bonnaroo
Burning Man
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Burning Man is an annual arts event that draws tens of thousands of people. Held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, this summer festival is deeply infused with radical politics. Although many celebrities now attend it, Burning Man still has a vibrant underground culture.

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34 tailgate party
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What's the name for the party that is held in a stadium parking lot before a sports game takes place?
A stag party
A tailgate party
A sporty pre-funk
A football soirée
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

A pre-game festivity, tailgate parties originally took place in football stadium parking lots. Their name stems from the fact that food and beverages are often served on the tailgates of participating vehicles. Today, tailgate parties occur at all sorts of events, including concerts and weddings.

35 groundhog day
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Surely the oddest U.S. holiday, this celebration involves closely monitoring a rodent's behavior. What is it?
St. Patrick's Day
Shrove Tuesday
Easter
Groundhog Day
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Held on February 2, Groundhog Day has its roots in Pennsylvania Dutch superstition. As folklore has it, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day, winter will last for another six weeks. The 1993 comedy "Groundhog Day" helped popularize this holiday.

You Got:
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