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English Speaking Countries Lessons" for Xiangtan Normal University...
WESTERN CULTURE AND SOCIETY: THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA (USA) -
American Holidays and Festivals
On legal holidays, businesses, schools and government offices close. The
only legal religious holiday is Christmas. Other religious holidays in
America are Easter, a Christian holiday and Yom Kippur and Hanukah which are
both Jewish holidays.
There are also many
holidays that have nothing to do with religion. Some holidays like Memorial
Day and Veterans Day are observed out of respect for those who died in
battle during various wars.
In the United States,
for the year 2002 there are 10 federal holidays set by law. Four are set by
date (New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, and Christmas Day).
The other six are set by a day of the week and month: Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus
Day, and Thanksgiving. All but the last are celebrated on Mondays to create
three-day weekends for federal employees.
1st January: New
Year's Day - A federal holiday in the
United States. In the early history of America, the new year was
observed on March 25 until January 1st, 1753. This is because of the
calendar in use then. In 1752, England and America adopted the Gregorian
colander after deciding that the Julian colander was not accurate. Now
in America the biggest block party of the year happens in New York
City's Times Square. Millions of people gather every year to watch the
Ball Drop as they count down to mid-night. At mid-night everyone yells
HAPPY NEW YEAR. Some people shake hands while others kiss and embrace.
The party in Times Square is always televised so the people who can't
make to New York can join the celebration from their homes.
Epiphany - (from Greek epiphanies,
“manifestation”). Falls on the 12th day after Christmas and
commemorates the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, as
represented by the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the miracle of the
wine at the marriage feast at Cana. One of the three major Christian
festivals, along with Christmas and Easter. Epiphany originally marked
the beginning of the carnival season preceding Lent, and the evening
preceding it is known as Twelfth Night.
Third Monday in
January: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday - (The
actual date of his birthday is Jan. 15th) A federal holiday observed on
the third Monday in January that honors the late civil rights leader. It
became a federal holiday in 1986. In 1999, New Hampshire became the last
state to officially honor the holiday. Martin Luther King Junior
believed that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their
race or skin color. He fought against racial discrimination and
prejudice saying that people should be judged according to their
character. Martin Luther King Jr. was born a minister's son on January
15, 1929. He entered college when he was only 15 years old. While in
college he studied black history, religion and theology. He received his
doctor of philosophy degree from Boston University. After college he
became a minister and married Coretta Scott. King became the pastor of
the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where he preached against segregation
of black people. King's most famous speech, "I Have a Dream"
was given in 1963 in front of Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.
250,000 gathered to hear his speech that day. Even though King believed
in non-violent methods to achieve his goal of desegregation, his life
ended very violently. King was killed by an assassin at the age of 39
Groundhog Day - (A Groundhog is a type of
animal) Groundhog day began as a Christian Holy Day. According to
Western religious tradition, Groundhog Day, is more formally known as
Candlemas Day. The earliest reference to groundhog day as it is
recognized today is February, 1841. Groundhog Day has its roots in
ancient times, when humans were enlightened enough to interpret the
workings of the world be watching the animals around them. Alas, the
groundhog was not a good choice, since actions rarely accurately predict
the coming of spring. Feb 2nd marks the midway point between the winter
solstice and the spring equinox. The date was a time of celebration for
ancient Europeans since it meant the beginning of a new growing season.
With the rise of Christianity, the pagan rites of February 2nd became
Candlemas Day, celebrated with the blessing of candles and an odd belief
that if a groundhog waking from its winter sleep cast a shadow, the
winter would continue for six more weeks.
Lincoln's Birthday - A holiday in many
states, this day was first formally observed in Washington, DC, in 1866,
when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address in tribute
to the assassinated president.
Shrove Tuesday: (Date
changes each year, normally about 2nd week in February) - Falls the day
before Ash Wednesday and marks the end of the carnival season, which
once began on Epiphany but is now usually celebrated the last three days
before Lent. In France, the day is known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday),
and Mardi Gras celebrations are also held in several American cities,
particularly in New Orleans. The day is sometimes called Pancake Tuesday
by the English because fats, which were prohibited during Lent, had to
be used up.
Ash Wednesday: (Date
changes, day after Shrove Tuesday) - The seventh Wednesday before Easter
and the first day of Lent, which lasts 40 days. Having its origin
sometime before A.D. 1000, it is a day of public penance and is marked
in the Roman Catholic Church by the burning of the palms blessed on the
previous year's Palm Sunday. With the ashes from the palms the priest
then marks a cross with his thumb upon the forehead of each worshipper.
The Anglican Church and a few Protestant groups in the United States
also observe the day, but generally without the use of ashes.
14th February: St.
Valentine's Day - This day is the festival
of two third-century martyrs, both named St. Valentine. It is not known
why this day is associated with lovers. It may derive from an old pagan
festival, or it may have been inspired by the belief that birds mate on
Third Monday in
February: Washington's Birthday / President's Day - (The
actual date of his birthday is Feb. 22nd.) On the third Monday of
February the United States honors all of its presidents; but, originally
President's Day was set aside as a day to celebrate the birthdays of two
great American presidents: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. George
Washington, who was born on February 22, 1732, was the first elected
president of the United States.
23rd February: Eid
al-Adha, (Feast of Sacrifice) -
commemorates Abraham's willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son.
Lasting for three days, it concludes the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to
Mecca. Muslims worldwide sacrifice a lamb or other animal and distribute
the meat to relatives or the needy.
26th February: Purim
(Feast of Lots) - A day of joy and feasting
celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from a massacre planned by the
Persian minister Haman. According to the Book of Esther, the Jewish
queen Esther interceded with her husband, King Ahasuerus, to spare the
life of her uncle, Mordecai, and Haman was hanged on the same gallows he
had built for Mordecai. The holiday is marked by the reading of the Book
of Esther (The Megillah), and by the exchange of gifts, donations to the
poor, and the presentation of Purim plays.
15th March: First
Day of Muharram - The month of Muharram
marks the beginning of the Islamic liturgical year. On the tenth day of
the month, many Muslims may observe a day of fasting, known as Ashurah.
17th March (Sunday):
St. Patrick's Day - St. Patrick, patron
saint of Ireland, has been honored in America since the first days of
the nation. Perhaps the most notable part of the observance is the
annual St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City. St. Patrick's Day is a
religious holiday that has its root is Ireland. St. Patrick, whose real
name was Maewyn Succat, was born sometime around the year 389. At the
age of 16 Maewyn was kidnapped by Irish pirates that had landed near his
home in England. During the years that he was in Ireland he worked and
learned the Irish language and way of life. Having been born of
Christian parents and raised in a Christian home, Maewyn was troubled
because the Irish worshiped many gods and spirits. Eventually Maewyn was
able to escape from Irish slavery. He went to France where he studied to
become a priest. After 14 years of study he was sent back to Ireland as
a Bishop by the Pope. Once back in Ireland, Maewyn, who by now had
changed his name to Patrick, traveled all across the island and
established churches and schools. According to legend, he also performed
many miracles. One of the best known stories tells of Patrick driving
all the snakes out of Ireland. In the United States, St. Patrick's day
has come to represent the Irish culture and the contributions of its
people to the United States.
up of many different days, see below. (Date changes each year - March /
April) Easter is probably the most important Christian holiday on the
calendar, it uses the egg, as a symbol. In the United States Easter is
celebrated in several ways. On Easter morning children begin their day
by looking for Easter eggs that the Easter bunny has hidden for them. Of
course most children know that the eggs were hidden by their parents and
not the Easter bunny. Many children help their parents color the Easter
eggs knowing that soon they will be eating them as a snack on Easter
day. Some cities have Easter egg hunts at the local parks. And of
course, many people attend "Sunrise Services" at their local
church. In fact, more people go to church on Easter Sunday than at any
other time of the year.
Palm Sunday - Observed
the Sunday before Easter to commemorate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
First Day of Passover
- (Pesach). The Feast of the Passover, also
called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, commemorates the escape of the Jews
from Egypt. As the Jews fled, they ate unleavened bread, and from that
time the Jews have allowed no leavening in their houses during Passover,
bread being replaced by matzoh.
Good Friday - The
Friday before Easter, it commemorates the Crucifixion, which is retold
during services from the Gospel according to St. John. A feature in Roman
Catholic churches is the Liturgy of the Passion; there is no Consecration,
the Host having been consecrated the previous day. The eating of hot-cross
buns on this day is said to have started in England.
Easter Sunday -
Observed in all Western Christian churches, Easter commemorates the
Resurrection of Jesus. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full
moon that occurs on or next after the vernal equinox (fixed at March 21)
and is therefore celebrated between March 22 and April 25 inclusive. This
date was fixed by the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
Orthodox Easter - (Pascha).
The Orthodox church uses the same formula to calculate Easter as the
Western church, but bases it on the traditional Julian calendar instead of
the more contemporary Gregorian calendar. For this reason Orthodox Easter
generally falls on a different date than the Western Christian Easter.
9th May: Ascension
Day - The Ascension of Jesus took place in
the presence of His apostles 40 days after the Resurrection. It is
traditionally thought to have occurred on Mount Olivet in Bethany.
Second Sunday in
May: Mother's Day - West Virginia was the
first state to recognize the holiday in 1910, and President Woodrow
Wilson officially proclaimed Mother's Day a national holiday in 1914.
May: First Day of
Shavuot (Hebrew Pentecost) - This festival,
sometimes called the Feast of Weeks, or of Harvest, or of the First
Fruits, falls 50 days after Passover and originally celebrated the end
of the seven-week grain-harvesting season. In later tradition, it also
celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
(Whitsunday) - This day commemorates the
descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles 50 days after the
Resurrection. The sermon by the apostle Peter, which led to the baptism
of 3,000 who professed belief, originated the ceremonies that have since
been followed. “Whitsunday” is believed to have come from “white
Sunday” when, among the English, white robes were worn by those
baptized on the day.
May: (Twelfth day of
the month in Islamic Calendar) - Mawlid an-Nabi
- This holiday celebrates the birthday of Muhammad, the founder of
Islam. It is fixed as the 12th day of the month of Rabi I in the Islamic
30th May: Memorial
Day - It became a federal holiday in 1971,
originating in 1868, when Union general John A. Logan designated a day
in which the graves of Civil War soldiers would be decorated. Originally
known as Decoration Day, the holiday was changed to Memorial Day within
twenty years, becoming a holiday dedicated to the memory of all war
dead. Memorial Day is a patriotic holiday in the United States. It is a
legal holiday in most states but, until recently, it was not observed on
the same date in all states. Northern states used to observe Memorial
Day on May 30th, southern states observed the holiday on either April
26th, May 10th, or June 3rd. By federal law Memorial Day is now observed
on May 30th in all states. Memorial Day is not a happy holiday. On
Memorial Day we honor all the men and women who have died while serving
their country in the Armed Forces.
14th June: Flag Day
- This day commemorates the adoption by the
Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, of the Stars and Stripes as the
U.S. flag. Although it is a legal holiday only in Pennsylvania,
President Truman, on Aug. 3, 1949, signed a bill requesting the
president to call for its observance each year by proclamation.
Third Sunday in
June: Father's Day - The exact origin of
the holiday is not clear, but it was first celebrated June 19, 1910, in
Spokane, Washington. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a
proclamation making Father's Day official
Independence Day - The day of the adoption
of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, celebrated in all states and
territories. The observance began in 1777 in Philadelphia. Independence
Day is one of the most important of all American holidays. That's the
day that we celebrate our independence from England, who once controlled
all of the new colonies in the New World. In 1773, there were only 13
colonies in America. About 2 million people lived in those colonies and
all 2 million people had to pay taxes to England. The people believed
this was unjust because even though they paid taxes they had no say in
the way they were being governed. One night when three English ships
loaded with tea was dock in Boston Harbor, some Americans dressed like
Indians went aboard the ships and threw all the tea into the water. This
became known as "the Boston tea party." This was seen as an
act of treason by the English Crown and England sent many soldiers to
America. The English soldiers killed many Americans in what is now
called the Boston Massacre. After the Boston Massacre, the colonists
formed the Constitutional Congress which decided that America should
declare its independence from England. Thomas Jefferson was appointed to
write the Declaration of Independence which was signed July 4, 1776. But
this did not guarantee America's freedom from England. Only after
defeating England in a war that lasted for five years was America free
from England's control. The British army surrendered to General
Washington at Yorktown, Virginia in late 1781. The Treaty of Paris,
which gave America its own sovereignty, was signed in 1783.
First Monday in
September: Labor Day - First first
celebrated in New York in 1882 under the sponsorship of the Central
Labor Union, following the suggestion of Peter J. McGuire, of the
Knights of Labor, that the day be set aside in honor of labor.
7th September: First
Day of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) - This
day marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year and opens the Ten Days of
Penitence, which close with Yom Kippur.
16th September: Yom
Kippur (Day of Atonement) - This day marks
the end of the Ten Days of Penitence that began with Rosh Hashanah. It
is described in Leviticus as a “Sabbath of rest,” and synagogue
services begin the preceding sundown, resume the following morning, and
continue to sundown.
First Day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) - This
festival, also known as the Feast of the Ingathering, originally
celebrated the harvest. The name of the festival comes from the booths
or tabernacles in which the Jews lived during the harvest, although one
tradition traces it to the shelters used by the Jews in their wandering
through the wilderness. During the festival many Jews build small huts
in their backyards or on the roofs of their houses.
Last Sunday of
September: Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) - This
joyous holiday falls on the eighth day of Sukkot. It marks the end of
the year's reading of the Torah (Five Books of Moses) in the synagogue
every Saturday and the beginning of the new cycle of reading
First Monday in
October: Columbus Day - A federal holiday,
it commemorates Christopher Columbus's landing in the New World in 1492.
Quite likely the first celebration of Columbus Day was that organized in
Halloween - Eve of All Saints' Day,
formerly called All Hallows and Hallowmass. Halloween is traditionally
associated in some countries with customs such as bonfires and the
telling of ghost stories. The Celts, (that's the name of the people from
Gaul and Great Britain) believed, dead spirits would try to possess
living people. They also believed that witches, ghosts and other evil
spirits roamed the land freely on this night. To scare away the spirits,
people dressed in costumes, lit bonfires, placed jack-o-lanterns and
other scary decorations in front of their homes.
1st November: All
Saints' Day - A Roman Catholic and Anglican
holiday celebrating all saints, known and unknown.
First Tuesday after
first Monday in November: Election Day -
(legal holiday in certain states). Since 1845, by act of Congress, the
first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is the date for
choosing presidential electors. State elections are also generally held
on this day.
6th November: First
Day of Ramadan - This day marks the
beginning of a month long fast that all Muslims must keep during the
daylight hours. It commemorates the first revelation of the Qur'an.
Veterans Day (Armistice Day) - A federal
holiday, was established in 1926 to commemorate the signing in 1918 of
the armistice ending World War I. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed
to Veterans Day to honor all men and women who have served America in
its armed forces. Veteran's Day began as Armistice Day. This is the name
given to November 11th by President Woodrow Wilson. He proclaimed
Armistice Day a day to remember the tragedies of war. Britain and France
observe this day to commemorate the end of World war I on November 11,
Fourth Thursday in
November: Thanksgiving - Holiday by act of
Congress (1941), The first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in the year
1621. The Pilgrims who had come to the New World from England landed at
Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts, on December 26, 1620 after
being at sea for almost a year. When the Pilgrims landed in this country
they discovered that the grain they brought from England wouldn't grow
in the soil of their new home. The first winter was very hard for the
early settlers and many people died because of sickness and starvation.
The native Indians came to the aid of the Pilgrims and taught them how
to plant crops of corn. They also taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and
fish. Thanks to the help of the Indians, the settlers' crops in the fall
of 1621 did well and there was a great harvest. The Pilgrims decided to
have a feast as a way of giving thanks. The Pilgrims invited their
friends, the Indians, to share this first Thanksgiving feast which
lasted three days.
30th November: First
Day of Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) - This
festival was instituted by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. to celebrate the
purification of the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been desecrated three
years earlier by Antiochus Epiphanies, who set up a pagan altar and
offered sacrifices to Zeus Olympius. In Jewish homes, a light is lighted
on each night of the eight-day festival.
First Sunday in
December: First Sunday of Advent - Advent
is the season in which the faithful must prepare themselves for the
coming, or advent, of the Savior on Christmas. The four Sundays before
Christmas are marked by special church services.
Christmas - The most widely celebrated
holiday of the Christian year, Christmas is observed as the anniversary
of the birth of Jesus. Christmas customs are centuries old. The
mistletoe, for example, comes from the Druids, who, in hanging the
mistletoe, hoped for peace and good fortune. Use of such plants as holly
comes from the ancient belief that such plants blossomed at Christmas.
Comparatively recent is the Christmas tree, first set up in Germany in
the 17th century. The use of candles on trees developed from the belief
that candles appeared by miracle on the trees at Christmas. Christmas is
the only holiday observed in America that is both a legal and a
religious holiday. Even though it is a Christian holiday, Christmas is
celebrated by almost everybody in the world regardless of religious
As well as national
holidays each state may also have their own holidays, as listed below:
State Holidays - Dates
Jan. 6, Three Kings'
Jan. 8, Battle of New
Orleans Day: La.
Jan. 11, De Hostos's
Jan. 19, Robert E.
Lee's Birthday: Ark., Fla., Ky., La., S.C.; (third Mon.): Ala., Miss.
Jan. 19, Confederate
Heroes Day: Tex.
Jan. (third Mon.),
Lee-Jackson-King Day: Va.
Jan. 30, F. D.
Roosevelt's Birthday: Ky.
Feb. 15, Susan B.
Anthony's Birthday: Fla., Minn.
March (first Tues.),
Town Meeting Day: Vt.
March 2, Texas
Independence Day: Tex.
March (first Mon.),
Casimir Pulaski's Birthday: Ill.
March 17, Evacuation
Day: Mass. (in Suffolk County)
March 20 (first day of
spring), Youth Day: Okla.
March 22, Abolition
March 25, Maryland
March 26, Prince Jonah
Kuhio Kalanianaole Day: Hawaii
March (last Mon.),
Seward's Day: Alaska
April 2, Pascua
Florida Day: Fla.
April 13, Thomas
Jefferson's Birthday: Ala., Okla.
April 16, De Diego's
April (third Mon.),
Patriots' Day: Maine, Mass.
April 21, San Jacinto
April 22, Arbor Day:
April 22, Oklahoma
April 26, Confederate
Memorial Day: Fla., Ga.
April (fourth Mon.),
Fast Day: N.H.
April (last Mon.),
Confederate Memorial Day: Ala., Miss.
May 1, Bird Day: Okla.
May 8, Truman Day: Mo.
May 11, Minnesota Day:
May 20, Mecklenburg
Independence Day: N.C.
June (first Mon.),
Jefferson Davis's Birthday: Ala., Miss.
June 3, Jefferson
Davis's Birthday: Fla., S.C.
June 3, Confederate
Memorial Day: Ky., La.
June 9, Senior
Citizens Day: Okla.
June 11, King
Kamehameha I Day: Hawaii
June 15, Separation
June 17, Bunker Hill
Day: Mass. (in Suffolk County)
June 19, Emancipation
June 20, West Virginia
July 17, Muńoz
Rivera's Birthday: P.R.
July 24, Pioneer Day:
July 25, Constitution
July 27, Barbosa's
Aug. (first Sun.),
American Family Day: Ariz.
Aug. (first Mon.),
Colorado Day: Colo.
Aug. (second Mon.),
Victory Day: R.I.
Aug. 16, Bennington
Battle Day: Vt.
Aug. (third Friday),
Admission Day: Hawaii
Aug. 27, Lyndon B.
Johnson's Birthday: Tex.
Aug. 30, Huey P. Long
Sept. 9, Admission
Sept. 12, Defenders'
Sept. 16, Cherokee
Strip Day: Okla.
Sept. (first Sat.
after full moon), Indian Day: Okla.
Oct. 10, Leif Eriksson
Oct. 10, Oklahoma
Historical Day: Okla.
Oct. 18, Alaska Day:
Oct. 31, Nevada Day:
Nov. 4, Will Rogers
Nov. (week of the
16th), Oklahoma Heritage Week: Okla.
Nov. 19, Discovery
Dec. 7, Delaware Day: