Turkey, pumpkin pie, American football and giant balloons. It’s the fourth Thursday in November. It’s Thanksgiving. But what exactly is Thanksgiving Day?
Many years ago, in the 1600s, a group of people left England and sailed on a ship called the Mayflower on a pilgrimage to the New World. The Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, after a long six-week journey at sea. It was a cold winter and the Pilgrims found it difficult in their new home. Fortunately, the Native Americans gave them food and taught them how to plant seeds. With the Native Americans’ help, the Pilgrims planted lots of crops and that autumn’s harvest was a good one. They celebrated their good fortune by having a feast of thanksgiving.
Today, Thanksgiving has become a traditional time to get together with family or friends. Food, drink and giving thanks are still part of the festival. People also enjoy other activities, like watching American football or going to a parade. The biggest parade is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade that takes place in New York. The parade includes marching bands, floats, songs and performances from Broadway musicals, and giant helium-filled balloons. Another tradition is the Turkey Pardon. The President receives a gift of a live turkey. At a White House ceremony, the President pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey, allowing it to live for the rest of its life on a farm.
-Read the text and find words with the following meanings:
- 1 a journey made for religious reasons
- 2 plants that are grown in large quantities, especially as food
- 3 a large or special meal, especially for a lot of people and to celebrate something
- 4 a public celebration of a special day or event, usually with bands in the streets and decorated vehicles
- 5 an area of land for growing food or keeping animals
-In pairs, talk about a festival in your town, region or country that has a long history.
- • What is the festival?
- • Does it have an interesting or funny story behind it?
- • How do you celebrate the festival?
- • What do you do, wear, and eat at the festival?
- • What do you like about the festival?
Come and see the giant Menorah lit up with candles for the Hanukkah London festival to celebrate the Jewish festival of lights. In London, the Menorah in Trafalgar Square is the largest in Europe.
Hanukkah began many thousands of years ago when the Jewish people got their temple back after a battle with their Syrian king, Antiochus, and his army. After their victory, the special lamp in the Jewish temple, the Eternal Light, was out. The Jews lit the Eternal Light but they only had enough oil to last for one night. However, a miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days, which is why Hanukkah is the festival of lights and it is celebrated for eight days.
Hanukkah is usually celebrated either in November or December and is a family celebration. Fried food is traditional during Hanukkah. Latkes are fried pancakes made with potatoes. Jam-filled doughnuts are another popular Hanukkah treat. Popular activities include playing with a dreidal, a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on its sides. Each person says what letter they think the dreidal will fall on once it stops spinning. The person who gets it right wins a sweet. The person with the most sweets at the end of the game wins. As part of the celebration, children also receive a small gift on each night of the festival.
As well as the Menorah at Trafalgar Square, lots of other London events are happening at places such as the Jewish Museum. Hanukkah London gives people a chance to get to know the Jewish culture better and enjoy the celebrations.
Read the text about Hanukkah. what do you remember about the things below?:
- the Menorah
- why Hanukkah is the festival of lights and lasts for eight days
- how people play with the dreidal traditional food
Does your country have a special celebration like Hanukkah? What is it called? Why do you celebrate it? How do you celebrate it?
3-St Valentine’s Day
Each year on the 14th February, many people show affection for each other by giving cards with messages of love, chocolates, gifts or flowers to their special valentine. The day of romance that we call Valentine’s Day is named after the Christian saint, Valentine, and dates back to the 5th century.
Who was St Valentine? There are many stories about who Valentine was. The popular belief is that he was a priest from Rome in the 3rd century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, he threw Valentine in jail and sentenced him to death. While in jail, Valentine fell in love with the prison guard’s daughter and when they took him to be killed on the 14th February, he sent her a love letter signed ‘from your Valentine’.
How did Valentine’s Day start? Valentine’s Day is a very old tradition that originated from a Roman festival. The Romans had a festival called Lupercalia in the middle of February, which was the start of their springtime. As part of the celebrations, boys picked names of girls from a box. They stayed together throughout the festival and sometimes they got married. Later on, the church wanted to turn this festival into a Christian celebration and decided to use it to remember St Valentine, too. Over the years, people started using St Valentine’s name to express their feelings to those they loved.
– Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in your country? Do you give or receive cards or gifts? Tell your partner about it.
– Match the words with the definitions.
1 marriage 2 jail 3 affection 4 romance 5 saint.
- A the feeling of liking or loving someone very much and caring about them
- B a person that the Christian Church recognizes as being very holy
- C a place you are sent when you do something against the law
- D the relationship between a husband and wife
- E an exciting relationship between two people who are in love with each other
-In small groups, discuss a celebration or festival which celebrates love and romance in your country.
- What is the name of the celebration / festival?
- Does it have a long history?
- How do you celebrate it? What do you like about it?
4-St Patrick’s Day
– What do you know about St Patrick’s Day?
- • St Patrick is the patron saint of which country?
- • What colour clothing do people wear during the festival? Why?
- • How do people celebrate St Patrick’s Day?
– Read the text and check if any of your ideas from exercise 1 are mentioned.
– Read the text again and decide if the sentences are true or false.
- 1 Nowadays, St Patrick’s Day is a celebration of Irish culture.
- 2 People call Chicago the Rainy City.
- 3 They use special paint to turn the river green.
- 4 The parade in the city goes on all day.
- 5 People dress up in clothes that are the same colour as the Irish flag.
– How does your country celebrate its patron saint? Discuss with a partner.
St Patrick’s Day is the one day a year when you can dress up all in green and enjoy Irish music and food. In the 17th century, it was a religious festival and people celebrated the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick, with large feasts. Today, it’s more of a celebration of Irish culture and people celebrate it all around the world.
St Patrick’s Day was so much fun! If you’re thinking of taking part in the St Patrick’s Day festivities, go to Chicago for a unique experience. That’s where I went this year. Chicago, also known as the Windy City, has one of the largest celebrations in the USA. The parade day begins with some Irish magic when they pour 18kg of eco-friendly vegetable dye into the Chicago River and it turns a bright emerald green colour. Over 400,000 people go to the bridges to watch the event, but the dye only lasts five hours, so don’t miss out!
At noon, the Downtown Parade starts. It’s one of the largest in the country. My friends and I had fun watching all the colourful floats, groups of Irish step dancers, booming marching bands and bagpipers. Everyone wears green, orange and white clothing to represent the colours of the Irish flag. There are also lots of places where you can enjoy traditional Irish food. I tried the Irish soda bread with raisins and corned beef and cabbage. It was delicious!
Easter is the oldest and most important festival in the Christian year. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is always on a Sunday in March or April. The English word ‘Easter’ comes from the AngloSaxon name for the month of April, which was known as ‘Eostremonath’. Today, people celebrate Easter in different ways, either taking part in traditional religious activities or enjoying more modern ones. Here’s how they celebrate in the UK.
On Easter Sunday, people who usually go to church attend special services with music, candlelight, flowers and ringing of the church bells. In the past, a popular tradition was to decorate and exchange eggs. The eggs were hard boiled and dyed in lots of different colours. Nowadays, it is more common to receive large chocolate eggs covered in shiny paper and in colourful boxes. In the UK, children are told that it’s the Easter Bunny who brings the eggs and hides them around the house or garden. The Easter egg hunt is a very popular children’s activity where they run around looking for the hidden eggs.
After the 40 days of Lent, when some people fast, food at Easter is always special. Roast lamb is traditionally eaten for the main meal on Easter Day. Other traditional Easter foods include custard tarts with raisins, Easter biscuits in the shape of rabbits or chicks, hot cross buns, which contain spices and raisins, and simnel cake. Simnel cake is a fruitcake covered with a thick layer of marzipan (almond paste). Originally, the simnel cake was a gift to mothers on Mother’s Day.
– Discuss the questions in groups.
- 1 Do you celebrate Easter?
- 2 If you do, how do you celebrate Easter?
- 3 If you don’t, do you celebrate any other festivals in spring?
– Read the text, then write the questions to the following answers.
- 1 It’s the oldest and most important Christian festival.
- 2 It takes place on a Sunday in March or April.
- 3 The Easter Bunny.
- 4 It’s an activity where children go round a house or garden finding eggs.
- 5 It’s a time when some people abstain from food or drink.
– Plan an Easter celebration. Discuss and decide on activities, what you will wear, and a menu for the party. Include any other ideas you may have.
– Share your ideas for the Easter celebration with the class.
LIFE IN THE USA Make a fuss of your dad this Father’s Day and find out more about what the day is all about!
In the USA, Father’s Day is always on the third Sunday in June and – unlike Mother’s Day – it isn’t linked to any religious occasion. Around the world, it is held on different days, for example, in Australia it falls on the first Sunday in September. It’s a modern celebration and first took place in the early 20th century so fathers could have a day similar to Mother’s Day.
The first Father’s Day celebration happened in Washington on the 19th June 1910. A woman called Sonora Smart Dodd whose father raised her and her five siblings after their mother died influenced the creation of the day. Sonora wanted to have a day that thanked her dad for what he did.
Today, sons and daughters traditionally spend lots of time with their dad on Father’s Day. The day may start with taking him breakfast in bed and his newspaper. Many people give cards and small gifts. Common gifts include sports items or clothing, electronic gadgets or tools. In more recent years, some people do special activities like having a family barbecue, going to a sports event or buying their dad a day out at a racetrack, so he can drive a fast car for the afternoon.
More commonly, though, people use the day to just enjoy spending time with their father.
– Read the text. Answers these questions:
- 1 When is Father’s Day in the USA?
- 2 Is Father’s Day an old celebration?
- 3 What did Sonora Smart Dodd want to do? What did her father do?
- 4 What are some typical Father’s Day activities?
-Plan a celebration for someone special in your family. Discuss and decide on the type of celebration, any activities, the presents and the food. You can use these phrases: Where …? We can … . Why don’t we …? How about …? Let’s … . Shall we …?