Eight other holidays are uniquely American (although some of them have counterparts in other nations). For most Americans, two of these stand out above the others as occasions to cherish national origins: Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November, but many Americans take a day of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit family and friends. The holiday dates back to 1621,the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference.
The Fourth of July, orIndependence Day, honors the nation’s birthday — the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4,1776. It is a day of picnics and patriotic parades a night of concerts and fireworks.
Besides Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, there are six other uniquely American holidays.
Martin Luther King Day: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African- American clergyman, is considered a great American because of his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means. Since his assassination in 1968,memorial services have marked his birthday on January 15. In 1986,that day was replaced by the third Monday of January which was declared a national holiday.
Presidents’ Day: Until the mid 1970s, the February 22 birthday of George Washington, hero of a1l the Revolutionary War and first president of the US, was a national holiday. It is celebrated on the 3d Monday of February.
Memorial Day: Celebrated on the 4th Monday of May, this holiday honors the dead.
Labor Day: The 1st Monday of September, this holiday honors the nation’s working people, typically with parades. For most Americans it marks the end of the summer vacation season and for many students the opening of the school year.
Columbus Day: on October 12, 1492, Italian navigator Ch. Columbus landed in the New World. But in the US this holiday takes place on the 2d Monday in October.
Veteran’s Day: Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday was established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It falls on November, 11. Other celebrations: While not holidays, two other days of the year inspire colorful celebrations in the US. On February 14 - Valentine’s Day, on October 31 - Halloween.
Which of these important days are celebrated in your country? Make sure you can describe what people do on this day in English. Use a dictionary or encyclopedia if necessary.
Follow-up: Read the article and answer the 17 questions below about St Patrick’s Day...
1. When is St Patrick’s Day?
2. Why is this day celebrated as St Patrick’s Day?
3. Where is it celebrated?
4. When was St Patrick born?
5. What happened to St Patrick at the age of 16?
6. What did the saint see as his ‘calling’?
7. What is a shamrock?
8. What use did St Patrick make of the shamrock?
9. What is a leprechaun?
10. What should you do if you meet a leprechaun?
11. Where is the blarney stone and what is special about it?
12. What does the word ‘blarney’ mean today?
13. Did St Patrick drive all the snakes out of Ireland?
14. What should you wear on St Patrick’s Day?
15. What do children do on St Patrick’s Day?
16. What do people traditionally eat on St Patrick’s Day?
17. What do pub owners do on St Patrick’s Day?
Who Is St. Patrick?
St. Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He was born in the fourth century and is famous for bringing Christianity into Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is a very well known Irish national holiday, which is celebrated not only in Ireland but all around the world. It falls on the 17th of March.
History of St. Patrick
St. Patrick was born to wealthy parents in the late fourth century. Until the age of 16 years old, he thought of himself as a pagan. He was kidnapped and sold as a slave at this age by Irish marauders. It was during this capture that he turned to God.
He managed to escape after being a slave for six years and then studied in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years. This was when he knew that his ‘calling’ was to try and convert all the pagans in Ireland into Christianity. St. Patrick went from monastery to monastery, successfully converting people to Christianity. The Celtic Druids were very unhappy with him and tried to arrest him several times but he always managed to escape. After 30 years of being a missionary in Ireland, he finally settled down in a place called County Down. He died on the 17th of March, AD 461.
Legend and Folklore
Shamrocks, leprechauns and the blarney stone are associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Shamrocks are three-leaved clovers found growing in patches on grass. You are thought to be lucky if you find a four-leaved clover, so do keep it if you ever come across one!
Leprechauns are little Irish fairies, and they are thought to work as shoe-makers for other fairies. The Irish say that if a leprechaun is caught by a human, he will reveal where he hides his pot of gold. On this day, pictures of shamrocks and leprechauns are hung everywhere. Some people even dress up as leprechauns complete with their big green hats!
The village of Blarney is situated northwest of the Irish village of Cork. Blarney comes from the
Irish word ‘An blarna’, meaning the plain. Blarney Castle is a very famous castle in this village and is 90 feet tall. The world famous Blarney Stone is on the top story. It is said that if one kisses this stone, one will be given the gift of eloquence, meaning to have beautiful speaking abilities. Nowadays, the word blarney means the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without offending.
Legend also says that St. Patrick could raise people from the dead. He is well-known for driving the snakes out of Ireland, although many people dispute how true this is! Another great story was how he used the shamrock, with its three leaves, to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost) to his followers.
What Do People Do on St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated world-wide with people dancing and singing in Irish pubs, watching St. Patrick’s Day parade, drinking ‘green’ beer, wearing green clothes and just generally having a good time. Children in Ireland have a tradition of pinching their friends who don’t wear green on this day!
Traditional Food and Drink on St. Patrick’s Day
Corned beef and cabbage is what most people have on this day. Another popular dish is Irish soda bread and potato pancakes. Irish pub owners go crazy on this day, putting green food colouring into their beers and traditional Irish Guinness Stout is a sell out in all Irish pubs!
People also drink lots of Irish coffee, which is made with warm whiskey, sugar, coffee and topped off with whipped cream. Sounds delicious? It is!
The Irish have many proverbs but here are some favourites.
• Better the coldness of a friend than the sweetness of an enemy.
• Be nice to them on the way up. You might meet them all on the way down.
• Let your anger set with the sun and not rise again with it.
The Irish are famous for their jokes and good nature. Here’s an example:
Definition of an Irish husband:
§ He hasn’t kissed his wife in 20 years but he will kill any man who does!
Now that you know almost everything about St. Patrick’s Day, go out on March the 17th and enjoy yourselves! Why not try and spot a leprechaun or two to find your pot of gold…?
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