Valentine's Day has had a long and romantic history. February 14 was the Roman date of the festival, where were games and dancing and then each young man drew from an urn the name of the girl who would be his sweetheart for the coming year. In the seventh century the festival began to be called St. Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day is the sweet-hearts holiday when people in love express affection for each other in different ways. The young people can do it though a small gift or a card.
On October 31, Americans celebrate Halloween. Halloween means "holy" (hallow) "evening" (een).This is the evening before the Christian holiday - All Saints Day. On All Saints Day, Christians remember the saints. But Halloween is even older than Christianity.
Before Christianity, people in Europe believed that on October 31 ghosts of dead people came back. To scare the ghosts, people dressed like devils and were very noisy. They also made big fires to keep the ghosts away. Later, people did not believe in ghosts, but they kept the day of Halloween for fun.
Immigrants came from Europe to America and brought with them the custom of Halloween. Halloween has some strange symbols. One symbol is the jack-o'-lantern in the window. The jack-o'-lantern is to scare the ghosts. People cut the pumpkin, throw away all of the inside, and cut a face in it. Then they put a candle inside of it. Jack-o'-lanterns usually look scary, too.
Today, in the United States, Halloween is very popular with children. They wear masks and special costumes. They want to look like skeletons and ghosts. Then they go from house to house and say, "Trick or treat!" People give them candies, cookies, or fruit. When people give nothing, the children sometimes play tricks on them.
On July 4 the Americans celebrate their national holiday - Independence Day. The United States gained independence as a result of gradual and painful process. By the mid 1700's,it became difficult for thirteen British colonies in the New World to be ruled by a king 3.000 miles across the ocean. The British empire imposed high taxes upon the colonies.
In 1774, the First Continental Congress drew up a list of grievances against the British crown. This document was the first draft of the document that would formally separate colonies from England. In 1775, the Revolutionary War began July 2,1776, the Second Continental Congress presented a second draft of the list of grievances. On July 4 the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of independence. But the War of independence lasted until 1783. After the war Independence Day became an official holiday.
On July 4, Americans have holiday from work. People have day-long picnics with favorite foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans. Lively music is heard everywhere. People play baseball or compete at three-legged races. or pie-eating or water-melon-eating contests. Some cities have parades with people dressed as the original founding fathers who march to the music of high school bands. In the evening people gather to watch firework displays. Wherever Americans are around the globe they will get together to celebrate Independence Day.
In1620, a religious community sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in the New World. They settled in what is now known as the state of Massachusettes. Their first winter in America was difficult. They arrived too late to grow a rich harvest. Moreover, half the colony died from desease. The following spring the Iroquois Indians taught them how to grow corn. Indians showed them also how to grow other crops and how to hunt and fish.
In the autumn of 1621 they got a beautiful harvest of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins. The colonists had much to be thankful for, so they planned a feast. Local Indian chief and ninety Indians were present. The colonists learned from Indians how to cook cranberries and dishes of corn and pumpkins.
In following years many of the colonists celebrated the harvest with a feast of thanks. After the United States gained independence, Congress recommended one yearly day of thanksgiving for the whole country. Later, George Washington suggested the date November 26 as Thanksgiving Day. Then, after the civil war, Abraham Lincoln suggested the last Thursday in November to be the day of thanksgiving.
On Thanksgiving Day, family members gather at the house of an older relative, even if they live far away. All give thanks for everything good they have. Charitable organization offer traditional meal to the homeless.
Food, eaten at the first thanksgiving, have become traditional. The traditional thanksgiving mean consists of roast turkey stuffed with herb-flavoured bread, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. Other dishes may vary as to region: ham, sweet potatoes, creamed corn.
Christmas is Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. No one knows the exact date of Christ's birth but most Christie celebrate Christmas on December 25. People in the United States decorate their homes with Christmas trees, wreaths and ornaments. City streets are filled with colored lights; the sound of bells and Christmas carols can be heard everywhere.
Children write letters to Santa Claus and tell him what presents they would like to get. Many department stores hire people to wear a Santa Claus costume and listen to children's reguests. People send Christmas cards to relatives and friends.
A Christmas tree is one of the main symbols of Christmas in most homes. Presents are placed under the tree. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, families open their presents. Some children hang up stockings so Santa Claus can fill them with candy, fruit and other small gift.
In many parts of the United States groups of people walk from house to house and sing Christmas carols. Some people give singers money or small gifts or invite them for a warm drunk.
Many people attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas moning. They listen to readings from Bible and singing Christmas carols.
A traditional Christmas dinner consists of stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and a variety of other dishes. Some families have ham or roast goose of turkey. Pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and fruitcake are favourite desserts.
FAMOUS PEOPLE OF AMERICA
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to most people as Mark Twain, was born and spent his boyhood in a small town on the Mississippi River. When he grew up, he became a river