In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cardswere an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
13.April Fool's Day
"The first of April is the day we remember
what we are the other 364 days of the year."
American humorist Mark Twain
In sixteenth-century France, the start of the new year was observed on April first. It was celebrated in much the same way as it is today with parties and dancing into the late hours of the night. Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, and the New Year fell on January first. There were some people, however, who hadn't heard or didn't believe the change in the date, so they continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April first. Others played tricks on them and called them "April fools." They sent them on a "fool's errand" or tried to make them believe that something false was true. In France today, April first is called "Poisson d'Avril." French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends' backs. When the "young fool" discovers this trick, the prankster yells "Poisson d'Avril!" (April Fish!)
Today Americans play small tricks on friends and strangers alike on the first of April. One common trick on April Fool's Day, or All Fool's Day, is pointing down to a friend's shoe and saying, "Your shoelace is untied." Teachers in the nineteenth century used to say to pupils, "Look! A flock of geese!" and point up. School children might tell a classmate that school has been cancelled. Whatever the trick, if the innocent victim falls for the joke the prankster yells, "April Fool! "
The "fools' errands" we play on people are practical jokes. Putting salt in the sugar bowl for the next person is not a nice trick to play on a stranger. College students set their clocks an hour behind, so their roommates show up to the wrong class - or not at all. Some practical jokes are kept up the whole day before the victim realizes what day it is. Most April Fool jokes are in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The cleverest April Fool joke is the one where everyone laughs, especially the person upon whom the joke is played.
On October 31st, dozens of children dressed in costumes knock on their neighbours' doors and yell, "Trick or Treat" when the door opens. Pirates and princesses, ghosts and popular heroes of the day all hold bags open to catch the candy or other goodies that the neighbours drop in. As they give each child a treat the neighbours exclaim over the costumes and try to guess who is under the masks.
Since the 800's November 1st is a religious holiday known as All Saints' Day. The Mass that was said on this day was called All Hallowmas. The evening before became known as All Hakkiw e'en, or Halloween. Like some other American celebrations, its origins lie in both pre-Christian and Christian customs.
October 31st was the eve of the Celtic New Year. The Celts were the ancestors of the present-day Irish, Welsh and Scottish people. On this day ghosts walked and mingled with the living, or so the Celts thought. The townspeople baked food all that day and when night fell they dressed up and tried to resemble the souls of the dead. Hoping that the ghosts would leave peacefully before midnight of the New Year the people carried the food to the edge of town and left it for them.
Much later, when Christianity spread throughout Ireland and October 31 was no longer the last day of the year, Halloween became a celebration mostly for children. "Ghosts" went from door to door asking for treats, or else a trick would be played on the owners of the house. When millions of Irish people immigrated to the United States in the 1840s the tradition came with them.
Today' school dances and neighbourhood parties called "block parties" are popular among young and old alike. More and more adults celebrate Halloween. They dress up like historical or political figures and go to masquerade parties. In larger cities, costumed children and their parents gather at shopping malls early in the evening. Stores and businesses give parties with games and treats for the children. Teenagers enjoy costume dances at their schools and the more outrageous the costume the better!
Certain pranks such as soaping car windows and tipping over garbage cans are expected.. But partying and pranks are not the only things that Halloweeners enjoy doing. Some collect money to buy food and medicine for needy children around the world.
At Halloween parties children play traditional games. One of the most popular is called pin- the-tail-on-the-donkey: One child is blindfolded and spun slowly so that he or she will become dizzy. Then the child must find a paper donkey hanging on the wall and try to pin a tail onto the back. Another game is bobbing for apples. One child at a time has to get apples from a tub of water without using hands! How? By sinking his or her face into the water and biting the apple!
Halloween originated as a celebration connected with evil spirits. Witches flying on broomsticks with black cats, ghosts, goblins and skeletons have all evolved as symbols of Halloween. They are popular trick-or-treat costumes and decorations for greeting cards and windows. Black is one of the traditional Halloween colours, probably