Celebrating Christmas in the United States

Christmas celebrations traditionally begin after Thanksgiving Day (third Thursday in November). On the following Saturday, a spectacular parade takes place in New York City with the arrival of Santa Claus marking the start of the festive season and a great Christmas.

Christmas was originally a strictly religious celebration that marked that birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December. In the last years it has also become a commercial as well as a secular season; department stores, shopping malls and small shops elaborately decorate their establishments and induce customers to spend “freely” on Christmas gifts. However, for many people Christmas still holds a major religious significance. It is the occasion for an annual family gathering throughout the whole country and an atmosphere of generosity and goodwill known as the “Christmas Spirit” emerges.

The Jewish celebration of Hanukah is celebrated around mid December, and the Afro-American celebration of Kwanzaa falls around the same period. Santa Claus was originally based on St. Nicholas, a European bishop known for his generosity. He used to give gifts to the poor people in the neighborhood during harsh winters. In the United States, the image of Santa Claus is represented as a jolly large man with a white beard wearing a red suit. He delivers the Christmas toys in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeers, flying around the world the eve of Christmas.

Many families in the United States decorate their homes with colorful lights, bright ornaments and the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, the children awake to find their gifts wrapped in colorful paper under the tree. The young ones place empty stockings hanging off the fireplace only to find them filled with candy and small toys.

During the holiday season, families also decorate outdoors placing lights on the small trees and hedges around their property. Neighborhoods take a festive look and appear really colorful and jolly every evening. Some people surround their homes with thousands of lights and also place a figure of Santa, Rudolph and snowmen, lit and full sized, in their gardens, front yards or roofs. Many churches and houses also use light decorations in order to commemorate the humble birth of Jesus. Suburban neighborhoods in the northern states become indescribably beautiful while the snow is falling and millions of colored lights shine in the houses and surrounding trees.

During the season, many people exchange Christmas cards and greetings. The cards are mailed to friends, neighbors, relatives and business associates during the month of December. When receiving a card, it is not always necessary to send another back and if you want to send a Christmas card and are not sure of the religion of those who receive it, always choose a card without religious issues to avoid offending the recipient.

Typical activities for the month of December include shopping for Christmas gifts or Hahukkah and Christmas parting. At parties people will find themselves surrounded by plenty of food, drink and joy. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are reserved for the family, whether they are near or far, who gather together for the annual celebration. People bring a small gift for the family and if there are children in the house, sweets and small gifts are greatly appreciated.

During the week after Christmas, the stores are filled with customers who exchange their gifts and take advantage of clearance sales. On New Year’s Eve there are plenty of parties taking place in restaurants, bars and clubs throughout the United States. Some cities hold great outdoor parties that end with the fireworks at midnight. One of the most famous parties takes place in Time Square in New York. New Year’s Day marks the end of the holiday season and people stay at home recovering from the night before.

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