In the United States, Christmas is observed on the 25th of December.
Here the festive season traditionally begins on the fourth Thursday in November, just after the Thanksgiving holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, a spectacular parade is taken out in New York City that has the smiling figure of Santa Claus participating in it. It indicates the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Department stores, shopping malls and small shops ready themselves appropriately for the season to attract shoppers and get them to spend quite a few bucks on Christmas trees, gifts, apparels, greeting cards and suchlike.
In the final days leading to December 25, small evergreen trees are seen to be established in every home and beautifully decorated with colored lights, tinsel, angels, stars and bright ornaments. The exterior of almost every house and the adjoining shrubbery is adorned with strands of electric lights. Strings of electric lights are used not only to adorn mantles and doorways, rafters, roof lines, and porch railings of individual homes but also of public/commercial buildings, departmental stores and even business hubs. Christmas trees are also seen to be set up in most of these places. It is often a pastime for the American people to drive or walk around neighborhoods in the Christmas evenings to see the lights displayed on and around other homes. Those with deep pockets are often found to place life-sized, illuminated Santas, reindeers and snowmen on their lawns and roofs. Many churches and private homes display illuminated Nativity Scenes commemorating the humble birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas Eve is not an official holiday here. Hence most people have to work. However, many workplaces hold Christmas parties or celebrations, so there is a celebratory air to the day. For kids, it is a day of great joy since most schools and other educational establishments are usually closed. In the evening, most people add final touches to their home decorations. Many also set up the Christmas tree in their homes on this day. Many organizations and department stores are usually open for last minute Christmas shoppers, but may close earlier. Many people travel to visit family members or friends on Christmas Eve. Some people, especially Roman Catholics, attend a Midnight Mass service at church and participate in singing carols. Traditionally, the midnight mass starts at midnight, the point of transition from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Many Protestant churches also hold special services on Christmas Eve, complete with displays of beautiful manger scenes and candle-lit religious observances.
The Christmas dinner in the U.S. includes turkey or ham, potatoes and pie. Cakes are of course, a must for the occasion. The menu also consists of a lot of desserts such as the "Crostoli," a fried bread spiced with orange peel (as made in Italian-American communities) or the "Pfeffernuesse," a bread full of sweet spices (eaten by German-Americans) or the "Berlinerkranser" - a Norwegian wreath-shaped cookie. Baked breads and cookies are also part of the dinner list. At Christmas Eve gatherings adults drink eggnog, a drink made of cream, milk, sugar, beaten eggs and brandy or rum.
After dinner on Christmas Eve, children go to bed early but not before hanging up their stockings on the fireplace or the end of their bed to be filled with gifts and goodies by Santa Claus. On the following morning, children wake up to look for their desired items in their stockings and also find nicely wrapped presents under their Christmas tree.