The Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving.
Some people decorate their houses with lights. Most people put a Christmas wreath on their doors or windows.
Christmas trees, natural and artificial, are decorated in homes across the United States between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (In Maine, many cut their own trees at farms that grow them just for Christmas.)
Colorfully wrapped presents are placed around the tree to be opened on Christmas morning.
In some places, groups go from house to house singing Christmas carols. This tradition goes back to the early 1800s, in England, and combines holiday visiting with songs to celebrate Christmas. Often singers are given something warm to eat or drink before they go on to the next house.
On Christmas Eve, children hope that Santa Claus will visit their homes. They hang Christmas stockings for him to fill. They may put a plate of cookies and some milk or juice for him to have a snack as a thank you for their presents.
Churches often have Christmas pageants. Kids play the roles in the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph looking for shelter, the angels visiting the shepherds, and the three kings traveling to Bethlehem.
Christians often go to a midnight church service; there are also services on Christmas morning. After church, presents are opened under the Christmas tree. Families usually gather for a large meal: traditional foods are turkey, ham or roast beef, with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, cranberries, carrots, fruit salads, and desserts like fruit cake or apple or pecan pie.
There are also traditions unique to regions in the United States. In the Southwest, luminarias guide the Christ child to a person’s home, and Pastorela plays, a combination of reverence and satire, are commonly performed. In Polish communities, people set their dinner table with two extra places for Mary and the Christ Child in case they should knock at the door to ask for shelter. Throughout the country, immigrant customs are added to local tradition for a diverse celebration.
Some people still celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, and comes down the day after Epiphany (Kings’ Day). This is not widespread, however. For most people in the United States, Christmas Day is the end of the Christmas season.
Attention then turns to celebration of the New Year, with multiple reviews of the year that is ending.