Christmas in America is usually celebrated with gift giving and family visits. Children are given a couple of weeks off of school for the holiday. On Christmas Day, children open presents delivered by Santa Claus the night before.
Santa Claus was brought to America by the Dutch in the 17th century, but did not become an important part of Christmas until 1809, when Washington Irving included him in a novel. He flew around in a wagon with no reindeer and smoked a pipe. He brought presents to the children, but didn't live in the North Pole or have a red coat.
Thomas Nast started the creation of the Santa Claus we know today by making drawings of him in the 1860's. In 1931, Coca Cola choose one of Nast's drawings to star in a Christmas time ad, and the image has stuck ever since.
On Christmas Eve, big meals are often eaten with families, including turkey or ham, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, Christmas cookies, egg-nog, and other things. For some families, this is followed by midnight mass.
Houses in America are heavily decorated. Lights are hung outside, along with pine branches and wreaths. Mistletoe is sometimes hung in the home, in-between doorways. Stockings are hung by fire places, or from hooks, to be filled with small treats. Christmas trees are decorated, by most people, with lights, ornaments, candy canes, tinsel, popcorn, and other things.