Holidays in USA
Christmas is a joyful religious holiday when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas story comes from the Bible. An angel appeared to shepherds and told them that a Savior had been born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem . Three Wise Men from the East (the Magi) followed a wondrous star which led them to the baby Jesus to whom they paid homage and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
To people all over the world, Christmas is a season of giving and receiving presents, In Scandinavian and other European countries, Father Christmas, or Saint Nicholas, comes into houses in the night and leaves gifts for the children. Saint Nicholas is represented as a kindly man with a red cloak and long white beard. He visited houses and left gifts, bringing people happiness in the coldest months of the year. Another character, the Norse God Odin, rode on a magical flying horse across the sky in the winter to reward people with gifts These different legends passed across the ages to make the present- day Santa Glaus.
Immigrant settlers brought Father Christmas to the United States . Father Christmas's name was gradually changed to Santa Claus., from the Dutch name for Father Christmas, which is Sinter Claas. Although he has origins in Norse and pre-Christian mythology, Santa Glaus took shape in the United States, Americans gave Santa Claus a white beard, dressed him in a red suit and made him a cheery old gentleman with red cheeks and a twinkle in his eye.
American children believe that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with his wife. All year he lists the names of children, both those who have been good and those who have been bad. He decides what presents to give to the good children. He oversees the manufacturing and wrapping of the presents by his helpers.
Santa Claus supposedly gets his list of toys from the millions of children who write to him at the North Pole. Children also find Santa Claus at shopping malls across the country. They sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. Of course, their parents are probably nearby listening in as well.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, Santa hitches his eight reindeer to a sleigh, and loads it with presents, The reindeer pull him and his sleigh through the sky to deliver presents to children all around the world, that is, if they had been good all year.
Several American towns maintain the spirit of Santa Claus. The New England state of Connecticut has a Christmas village where "Santa" and his elves give out gifts. In New York , a small town called the North Pole was designed for Santa Claus. There is a post office, a church and a blacksmith shop, to repair the shoes of the reindeer.
Santa Claus exists only in our imaginations. But he, Saint Nicholas, and Father Christmas are spirits of giving. Christmas has been associated with gift giving since the Wise Men brought gifts to welcome the newborn Jesus Christ.
In anticipation of Santa's visit, American children listen to their parents read "The Night Before Christmas' before they go to bed on Christmas Eve. Clement Moore wrote the poem in 1823.
Another important custom of Christmas is to send and receive Christmas cards, which are meant to help express the sentiment of the season. Some are religious in nature; others are more secular. Americans begin sending Christmas cards early in December to friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, The post office advises customers to mail early in the season and avoid the Christmas rush. Some people heed the advice; others wait until the last minute and then are upset when their loved ones have not received the greeting card or the present which they sent.
It seems that nearly every family has its own unique Christmas observances. Many people are especially proud of Christmas traditions brought to the United States from their countries of origin. The wonderful diversity of foods, music and songs, prayers and stories — all make Christmas the holiday of holidays in the United States .
One custom in Texas and other parts of the American Southwest warmly welcomes Christmas visitors. People cut designs out of the sides of paper bags. Then they put enough sand in the bottom of the bag to hold a candle. They line their walkways with the bags, and light the candles after dark. Guests can easily find their friend's walkway and follow the candles up to the door.
In San Antonio , these "luminarias" are placed all along the River Walk, a paved walkway alongside the San Antonio River , and an old custom called "Las Posadas" is acted out.
"Las Posadas represents the journey that Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Jerusalem on a winter night 2000 years ago. Mary was about to give birth to Jesus, on their way to be counted in the census. The inns were full and the only place they could find to rest was a barn. Jesus was born there and was placed in a manger, or wooden bin for feeding animals.
Two young people are chosen to play the roles of Mary and Joseph. They follow the luminarias up to a house and knock on the door. Joseph asks the owner if they can stay there for the night. The owner refuses to let them in, because the house is full. They knock at several more houses until finally someone lets them come in to stay the night. The house where the couple is invited was chosen before the cetebration, and has a doll in a manger, representing Jesus. When the couple arrives at the house, they and the people who have followed sing Christmas carols and eat the food provided by the "innkeeper."
Home for the Holidays
Going home for Christmas is a most cherished tradition of the holiday season. No matter where you may be the rest of the year, being at "home" with your family and friends for Christmas is "a must." The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the busiest times of the year at airports, train stations, and bus depots. It seems that all America is on the move and Americans are on their way to spend the holidays with their loved ones.
This means that the house will be full of cousins, aunts and uncles that might not see each other during the year. Everyone joins in to help in the preparation of the festivities. Some family members go to choose a Christmas tree to buy and bring home. Others decorate the house, or wrap presents. And of course, each household needs to make lots of food!
On Christmas Eve, there are evening church services which everyone attends. Attention is focused on the nativity scene, while all join in singing carols. On Christmas Day, there are other religious ceremonies at churches which families attend before they make their rounds to visit friends and relatives.
The Christmas table looks much like a Thanksgiving feast of turkey or ham, potatoes and pie. No Christmas is complete without lots of desserts, and nothing symbolizes Christmas more than baked breads and cookies hot from the oven. Many American traditional desserts, like other Christmas customs, were started long ago in other parts of the world. Guests bring English fruit cake or plum pudding as presents to their hosts. "Crostoli," a fried bread spiced with orange peel, is made in Italian-American communities. As an ending for the Christmas banquet, Americans of German background eat "Pfeffernuesse," a bread full of sweet spices. Doughnuts are a holiday offering in many Ukrainian-American homes. Norwegian "Beriinerkranser" is a wreath-shaped cookie: dozens are made, but few are left by Christmas morning! Candy doesn't remain for long, either, during the holiday weeks. Hard candies such as peppermint candy canes and curly green and red ribbon candy are traditional gifts and goodies.,
At Christmas Eve gatherings, adults drink eggnog, a drink made of efeam, milk, sugar, beaten eggs and brandy or rum. Plenty of eggnog or hot cocoa is on hand in colder climates for carolers, or people who go from house to house to sing Christmas carols to their neighbors.
Long ago, each child hung a stocking, or sock, over the fireplace. Santa entered down the chimney and left candy and presents inside the socks for the children. Today the tradition is carried on, but the socks are now large red sock-shaped fabric bags still called stockings. Each child can't wait to open his or her eyes to see what Santa has left in the stocking.
Giving gifts is a Christmas tradition. However, in recent years, more and more people have complained that Christmas is too "commercialized," especially in large cities. Store owners begin advertising and decorating very early in hopes of selling more goods. Children demand more and more from Santa Glaus because manufacturers and retailers saturate television with advertising. Some people believe that the origin of Christmas has been lost. Commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ is the very reason for Christmas and should be central to the celebration.
Every year human interest newspaper articles remind readers of the origin of Christmas. Shelters for the homeless and hungry appeal through the newspaper to send money or gifts to those who are less fortunate. Members of organizations such as the Salvation Army dress up as Santa Claus and stand on the sidewalks outside stores to collect money for their own soup kitchens. City police forces supervise a "Toys for Tots" donation, in which people contribute new or used toys for children in hospitals and orphanages. Employees give a small part of their paychecks as a donation to a favorite charity. Such groups and organizations try to emphasize the true message of Christmas — to share what you have with others.
Tiny Tim's christmas
from "A Christmas Carol"
The British author Charles Dickens spread the idea of sharing in his story, "A Christmas Carol," written in 1854. This part of the story tells about a family who does not have the money to live or eat well most of the'year, or to pay for a doctor for their crippled son-. Yet they consider themselves lucky for what they do have — a close, happy family and generous friends. Reading together excerpts from "A Christmas Carol" is an important tradition for many American families.
Mrs. Cratchit, wearing a dress mended often and colorful cheap ribbons, laid the tablecloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of the daughters, also brave in ribbons. Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his enormous shirt collar into his mouth. He rejoiced to find himself so elegantly dressed, and yearned to show his clothes in the fashionable parts of town. Two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan lid to be let out and peeled.
"Where is your father?" said Mrs. Cratchit "And your brother, Tiny Tim! and Martha wasn't as late last Christmas!"
"Here's Martha, Mother!" said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
"Here's Martha, Mother!" cried the two young Cratchits. "Hurrah! There's such a goose, Martha!"
"Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!" said Mrs. Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.
"We had a great deal of work to finish up last night," replied the girl, "and had to clear away this morning, mother!"
"Well! Never mind so long as you are here," said Mrs. Cratchit. "Sit down before the fire, my dear, and warm up, Lord bless ye!"
"No, no, there's father coming!" cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. "Hide, Martha, hide!"
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim, he carried a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!
"Why where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.
"Not coming," said Mrs. Cratchit.
"Not coming!" said Bob, with a sudden disappointment, for he had played Tim's horse all the way from church, and was in high spirits. "Not coming upon Christmas Day!"
Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, even if only in fun, so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits carried off Tiny Tim to hear the pudding singing in the copper pan.
"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when Bob had hugged his daughteno his heart's content. "As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow, he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see."
Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs, as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby ------- compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it on the iron stand to simmer; Master Peter, and the two young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession. Such a bustle ensued that they might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was ordinary. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy hissing ho!. Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor. Miss Belinda sweetened up the applesauce. Martha dusted the hot plates. Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table: the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, so they wouldn't shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on. and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit. looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast: but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing burst out. one murmur of delight arose all around the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits. beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried. "Hurrah!"
There never was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness were admired all around. Eked out by applesauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family. Indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (looking at one last bit of bone on the dish) they hadn't eaten it ail! Yet everyone had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda. Mrs. Cratchit left the room to take the pudding up and bring it in.
In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in flaming brandy, with Christmas holly stuck in the top.
Bob Cratchit remarked that it was a wonderful pudding, in fact it was probably one of the greatest achievements of Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit confessed that now it was done, she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family.
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug was tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, and at Bob Cratchit's elbow was the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done, and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:
"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!" Which all the family re echoed.
"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim. the last of all.
Savior: n. one who saves or brings salvation; in Christianity, Jesus Christ
stable: n. a farm building where animals are kept wondrous: adj. remarkable; extraordinary homage: n. respect; honor
frankincense: n. material from a special East African or Arabian tree which makes a fragrant smell when it is burned
myrrh: n. material from a special East African or Arabian tree which is used in making perfumes
cloak: n. a long, loose outer garment without sleeves
immigrant: n. person who moves from his own country to another
cheery: adj. friendly, happy
twinkle: n. sparkle; bright spot like a star
oversee(s): v. to supervise
hitch(es): v. to connect
reindeer: n. deer-like animal living in cold regions
sleigh: n. vehicle with runners pulled by animals over snow
maintain: v. to continue; to keep up
elf: (pi.elves) n. a small mischievous creature in mythology
exist(s): v. to live
imagination(s): n. ability to form a picture or idea in
Twas: it was (poetic)
stir(ring): v. to move
nestle(d): v. to be in bed and ready to fall asleep
snug: adj. comfortable
sugarplum(s): n. candied fruit
clatter: n. noise
spring: v. to leap or jump up suddenly (Past tense: sprang)
tore: v. to open quickly
sash: n. window
courser(s): n. animal that pulls a vehicle
dash away: v. to run suddenly; to go suddenly in a twinkling; at once; in a moment
prance(ing): v. to dance about (usually in reference to animals)
paw(ing): v. to push with a foot (usually in reference to animals)
bound: n. a slight jump tarnished: adj. dirty
soot: n. black substance that comes from fuel when it is burned
fling: v. to throw (past tense: flung)
peddler: n. a salesman who carries his objects for sale
dimple(s): n. dent in skin, usually showing when someone smiles
droll: adj. amusing or humorous stump: n. short piece
chubby: adj. pleasantly fat plump: adj. pleasantly fat dread: v. to fear jerk: n. short, quick move
down of a thistle: n. phrase, soft part of a prickly wildflower
ere: prep, before (poetic)
secular: adj. of or relating to worldly concerns
round: prep, around; surrounding
yon: adj. being at a distance but within view (poetic)
quake: v. to shake or tremble
heavenly hosts: n. phrase, angels in the sky
Bobtail: horse's tail cut short; nickname for a horse
glee: n. cheer; happiness
rush: n. a period of intense activity
heed: v. to listen to: to pay attention to
census: n. official count of people in a city or country
cherished: adj. held dear: appreciated
"a must": n. something necessary or essential
nativity scene: n. phrase, an exhibit of statues or figures which present the birth of Jesus Christ with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Wise Men
make rounds: v. phrase, to visit one place after another
orange peel: n. skin of an orange commercialize(d): v. to exploit for profit
retailer(s): n. a person who sells items directly to customers
saturate: v. to load until no more space is available shelter(s): n. a safe place; a haven
orphanage(s): n. place where children who have no parents live
mend(ed): v. to repair
Master: title for male children
plungefd): v. to sink into deeply
rejoice(d): v. to fill with joy
yearn(ed): v. to desire
bask(ing): v. to expose oneself to warmth or joy
luxurious: adj. rich
sage: n. a type of herb, used for flavoring food exalt(ed): v. to praise
officious: adj. offering advice or service in an
zeal: n. enthusiasm; active interest
comforter: n. long scarf: a type of blanket for covering a bed
exclusive: adj. not including all people
threadbare: adj. shabby, usually in reference to cloth which has worn thin from long use
seasonable: adj. appropriate for the season of the year
crutch: n. a support used as a walking aid prematurely: adv. early, before an expected time
to his heart's content: adv. phrase : as much as he wanted
cripple: n. a person unable to walk with both legs
lame: adj. unable to walk
tremulous: adj. shaky
tremble(d): v. to shake
simmer: v. to boil or cook on very low heat
bustle: n. noisy activity
ensue(d): v. to occur; to take place
to which a black swan was ordinary: adj. clause, compared to their Christmas goose, an unusual black swan was nothing special
shriek: v. to scream
grace: n. a prayer before a meal
gush: n. sudden flowing out
board: n. table (old-fashioned)
eke(d) out: v. to make to last longer
steeped: adj. full
flushed: adj. red in the face
speckled: adj. spotted
Christmas holly: n. a plant that is associated with Christmas because it has red berries at that time of the year
goblet(s): n, a fancy drinking glass especially for wine