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American Holidays

American Holidays

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Published by zabolotnyi61
A description of several holidays celebrated in the USA. For ESL students.
A description of several holidays celebrated in the USA. For ESL students.

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Published by: zabolotnyi61 on Dec 11, 2008
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09/07/2012

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America’s Holidays andCelebrations
Compiled by O. Zabolotnyi
Right:
Independence Day fireworks in NewYork 
America is blessed with rich ethnicheritage and, thus, many holidays tocelebrate. Although the word ‘holiday’literally means ‘holy day’, many of themare not religious, but commemorative.Here we can cast a glance on just a few of a number of nation-wide celebrations, and, unfortunately have to ignore hundreds(if not thousands) local ones.
INDEPENDENCE DAY 
is, undoubtedly, the major national holiday in the USA. It iscelebrated on July 4. By the mid-1700s it became difficult for thirteen Britishcolonies in the New World to be ruled by a monarch 3,000 miles across the ocean. The British Empire imposed high taxes upon the colonies undermining theirdevelopment.
Left:
Traditional Independence Day  parade
In 1774, the First ContinentalCongress drew up a list of grievancesagainst the British crown. Thedocument was the first one thatspoke about the separation of thecolonies from England. In 1775 theRevolutionary War began. On July 2,1776, the Second ContinentalCongress in Philadelphia presentedanother document, which was adopted two days later, on July 4, and is known asthe Declaration of Independence. Although the war went on until 1783, it is July 4,1776 is considered to be the birthday of the American nation and is celebrated inevery county and town of the USA.On July 4 Americans have a holiday from work. People have day-long picnics withbarbecues and hot dogs. Many cities and towns have parades with people dressedas the original ‘founding fathers’ and Revolutionary War soldiers. In the eveningpeople gather to watch spectacular firework displays. Wherever Americans arearound the globe, they will get together to celebrateIndependence Day.
LABOR DAY 
comes in the calendar after Independence Day.It is celebrated on the first Monday in September. The ideaof the holiday is to honor working people of America and togive them a long weekend holiday from work.
 
Labor Day was started in 1882 by a union called the Knights of Labor. The firstcelebration was a long parade followed by a picnic in New York City. It was a part of the labor unions’ fight for workers’ rights. In 1886 the American Federation of Laborwas formed to defend the employees’Page 2.interests. In 1894 the US Congress made the first Monday of September a legalnational holiday.Labor Day is traditionally celebrated with parades and union activists’ speeches.Barbecues and picnics are also popular activities to follow the official part. Thisholiday marks the end of the summer season for every American.
HALLOWEEN
is not an official holiday in the USA, but it is widely celebrated onOctober 31 in the whole English-speaking world due to the ancient Celtic tradition. The name of the festival means “holy evening” (All Hallow Eve) because it happensthe day before All Saints Day (November 1) established by the early Christianchurch on the British Isles. It was then a way to combine new Christian traditionwith an ancient pagan festival of the dead.The Halloween symbolic colors are orange,green, yellow and black. Black cats, skulls,skeletons, ghosts, bats, witches’ hats andbrooms can be seen everywhere. Anotherprominent Halloween symbol is a Jack-o-Lantern: a hollow pumpkin with a carved faceand a lit candle inside. An Irish legend saysthat once there was a man called Jack whowas not accepted in Heaven, because he wasa sinner; and equally unwanted in hell because he had played jokes on the devil. So, Jack was doomed to trudge around the world with his lantern until the JudgmentDay.Children’s main and favorite Halloween activity is trick-or-treating. They dress upin costumes of ghosts, skeletons, witches, pirates, and horror movie characters andgo around the neighborhood from door to door greeting the hosts saying ‘Trick ortreat!’ They are given fruit, candy, cakes and small money by the neighbors.
THANKSGIVING DAY 
is marked on the last Thursday in November making thatweekend a really long one. All generations of every family sit together at the feasttable on that day. The Thanksgivingweekend gives the start to theChristmas season.This holiday has a long history, whichstarted in 1620 when a Protestantreligious group known today as‘Pilgrims’ arrived in the New World onboard of the ship called Mayflower, andsettled in what is now known as thestate of Massachusetts. Their firstwinter in America was full of hardship
 
and drama. They arrived too late to farm the land, so they starved. Half of thecolony died from disease. The following spring the local tribe of Native Americanstaught them how to grow corn and other crops. They also helped them to hunt andfish. In the autumn of 1621 the Pilgrims got a rich harvest of corn, barley, beans,pumpkin and other vegetables. They prepared a feast and sat together with theIndian chief and ninety other natives at the abundant dinner tables. Of course, priorto dining they praised the Lord, and thanked Him for all the food and wealth Hegave them. This is how the festivity got started.In the years that followed colonists in many settlements celebrated the harvestwith a feast of thanks. After the United States gained Independence the congressrecommended a single day of thanksgivingPage 3.for the entire country. George Washington, thefirst president of the USA, suggested November26 as Thanksgiving Day. It was Abraham Lincolnwho established the holiday on the last Thursdayof November after the end of the Civil War.A traditional Thanksgiving meal consists of roast turkey stuffed with herb-flavored bread,cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, and apumpkin pie. Other dishes may vary regionally:ham, sweet potatoes, creamed corn, maplesyrup etc.
CHRISTMAS
dinner also includes stuffed turkey and gathers families at the table toenjoy the celebration of one of the most wonderful holidays of the year. However,some families prefer ham or roastgoose for that occasion.
Right:
‘Christmas Tree -1’ is placed inWashington D.C. right in front of theWhite House, the residence of the president of the United States.
Christmas is a Christian holidaythat marks the birth of Jesus Christ.Most Christians observe it onDecember 25. Homes, streets,stores, gas stations, schools andhospitals are decoratedwith Christmas trees,wreaths and coloredlights. The sound of bells and Christmascarols can be heardeverywhere.Santa Claus is the onewho is considered to be

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