The main Halloween activity for children is trick-or-treating. Children dress in costumes and masks and go from door to door saying “trick or treat”. The neighbors give children such treats as candy, fruit and pennies so that children do not play tricks on them.
Jack-o-lanterns are hallowed-out pumpkins with face carved into one side. Most jack-o-lanterns contain a cantle inside. An Irish legend says that jack-o-lanterns are named after the man called jack. He could not enter heaven because he was a miser, and he could not enter hell because he had played jokes on devil. As a result, Jack has to walk on the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day.
Fortunetelling an important part of Halloween. For example, a coin, a ring, and thimble were baked into a cake. It was believed that the person who found the ring would marry soon. And the person who found the thimble would never get married. Today people practice cardreading or palmistry.
People once believed that there were many ghosts and witches on the Earth and that they met on October 31 to worship the devil. Today, people do not believe in ghosts and witches but they like to tell stories about them on Halloween.
Almost in every culture in the world there is a celebration of thanks for rich harvest. The American Thanksgiving began as a feast of thanksgiving almost four hundred years ago.
In 1620, 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 disease. 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. Than, 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 far away. All give thanks for everything good they have. Charitable organizations offer traditional meal to homeless.
Foods, eaten at the first thanksgiving, have become traditional. The traditional thanksgiving meal consists of roast turkey stuffed with herb-flavored 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. For millions of Christmas throughout the world it is the happiest and the busiest time of the year. No one knows the exact date of Christs birth but most Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25. The world Christmas comes from Christes maesse, an early English phrase that means Mass of Christ.
People of different countries celebrate Christmas in various ways. People in the United States and Canada 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 a Santa Claus costume and listen to childrens requests. People send Christmas cards to relatives and friends. Many companies give presents to their employees.
A Christmas tree is one of the main symbols of Christmas in most homes. Relatives and friends may join in trimming the tree with lights, tinsel, and colorful ornaments. Presents are placed under the tree. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, families open their presents. Many children believe that Santa Claus arrives on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer and brings present. Some children hang up stockings so Santa Claus can fill them with candy, fruits and other small gifts.
In many parts of the United States and Canada 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 drink. Many people attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. They listen to readings from Bible and singing Christmas carols.
A traditional Christmas dinner consist of stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce a variety of other dishes. Some families have ham or roast goose instead of turkey. Pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and fruitcake are favorite desserts.
There are several legends about St. Valentines Day. One of the legends says that Valentine was Christian pries who lived in the 3 century A.D. he was put into prison by roman authorities for his teachings and was beheaded on February cured his jailers daughter of her blindness. Before the execution he wrote her a letter signed “From Your Valentine”. Another legend says that the same Valentine wrote to children and friends who loved him from the jail.
According to another legend, Valentine was an Italian bishop who lived at about the same time. He was thrown into prison because he secretly married couples, contrary to the laws of the Roman Empire. The legend says that he was burnt at the stake.
February 14 was also a Roman holiday. On this day young men randomly chose the name of the girl to escort to the festival. The custom of choosing a sweetheart on this day became very popular in the medieval Europe. Later this custom spread to American colonies.
Now, St. Valentines Day is the day of sweethearts. On this day, people show their friends relatives and loved ones that they care. People send candy of flowers to those whom they love. Most people send “valentines”, greeting cards named after St. Valentines letters written from jail. Valentines can be sentimental and romantic, or funny and friendly. Valentines can be anonymous. Valentines can be heard-shaped or can carry hearts on them. People buy valentines or make them themselves.
England is the largest and the richest country of Great Britain. The capital of England is London but there are other large industrial cities, such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and other famous and interesting cities such as York, Chester, Oxford and Cambridge.
Stonehenge is a one of the most famous prehistoric places in the world. This ancient circle of stones stands in South-west England. It measures 30 metres across and made with massive blocks of stone up to four metres high. Why it was built is a mystery.
Not far from Stonehenge stands Salisbury Cathedral. It is a splendid example of an English Gothic Cathedral; inside there is one of four copies of Magna Charta and the oldest clock in England.
Chester is very important town in the north-west of England. In the past it used to be a Roman fort; its name comes from the Latin word castra, meaning “fortified camp”. In Chester there is a famous museum which contains over 5000 ancient and modern toys.
Oxford is the home of the oldest university of England. The most famous college is Christ Church. It has a great hall which was build during the reign of Henry 8 and its chapel has become the Cathedral of Oxford. Cambridge is the capital of Britains second oldest university.
York was the capital of Northern England. It is one of the best preserved medieval cities of Europe. It was build by Romans, conquered by Anglo-Saxons and ruled by the Vikings. Birmingham is often called the “City of 1500 trades” because of the great variety of its industries.
Ways of Everyday Live
Very often when speaking of English traditions we think first of some curious theatrical ceremonies of the court* or parliament procedure. There come to our mind the medieval uniforms of the guards, the solemn cloaks and wigs of the judges or the top hats (bowlers) and the invariable umbrellas of the clerks of the London City.
But the word “tradition” does not mean only that. First and foremost “tradition” is the generally accepted made or way of living, acting, behaving of just doing things. There are many very good traditions of this kind in the everyday life of the English.
Everything is the Other Way Round
In England everything is the other way round. On Sunday on the Continent even the poorest person puts on his best suit, tries to look respectable, and at the same time the life of the country becomes gay and cheerful; in England even the richest peer or motor-car manufacturer dresses in some peculiar rags, does not shave, and the country becomes dull and dreary.
On the Continent there is one topic, which should be avoided the weather; in England, if you do not repeat the phrase “Lovely day, isnt it?” at least two hundred times a day, you are considered a bit dull. On the Continent Sunday papers appear on Monday; in England a country of