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AMERICAN CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS

There are only a few customs kept by general publick in the USA. It is important to know the reason - American people are not only descedants of the British immigrants, there are many ethnic groups in Amerika. These ethnic groups have brought their own customs and traditions which may be quite different and they differ especially about the holidays which were originally connected with religious feasts, such as Easter or Christmas.

There are some days dedicated to important persons of the past in American calendar. E.g. Martin Luther King's day, Lincoln's birthday or Washington's birthday. Some states celebrated them instead of the President's day - the day when all presidents of the USA are honoured. These all days are in January or Fabruary as well as St. Valentine's day.

Easter is not a national holiday and most of Americans spend Easter Sunday with the family. The Easter season actualy beggins approximately 40days before Easter Sunday, this period is known as Lent and beggins on Ash Wednesday. Many believers in this time remember the sacricifece made Jesus Christ. They go without something important or significant in their lives. It is common to hear someone ask another person:"So what did you give up for Lent?" Some exampels of things that people give up are eating a meat or chocolate, drinking alcohol...Many churches hold services at which a bit of ashes are put on the worshippers' foreheads as a symbol of humility and the inevitability of death. There are a lot of secular celebrations, too. E.g. in Washington, D.C., children up to eight years of age may come to the White House on Easter Monday and take part in a competition called egg rolling - pushing eggs on the grass with a cane. The Easter version of Santa Claus is the Easter Bunny. Like Santa Claus, the easter Bunny - usually a person dressed up in a large, colorful rabbit suit - brings gifts of brightly colored eggs, candy and chocolate eggs and rabbits to children. Many parents tell their children that the Easter Bunny lays Easter eggs and than he hides them in the grass, in bushes and trees. So kids race across the lawn bumping into each other and often fighting over who got to the egg first. Watchsful parents make sure that each child finds at least one Easter egg.

Then comes Mother's and Father's day - days dedicated to our parents because they really worth it. Between these two days is Memorial Day celebrated. It honours Americans killed in all past wars and most recently all the death. Flowers and flags are replaced on the graves of the war-death. Quite antagonistic is Independence day. It is the national birthday. It commemorates the day on l776 when the Thirteen Colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence and established the USA. Each city and town noe has its own ceremony. There are parades, band concerts, speeches by public officials, and fireworks displays in the evenings. There is something common between this day and less-known Flag Day. It is celebrated by homes and bussinesses simply flying their flag - nothing else but it is also a national holiday. American flag has been a center of controversy. In the late 60's American students wore small flags sewn to theirs jeans bottoms as an insult to the American government protesting its involvment in the Vietnam War. Nowadays there are strick rules of using the flag in America: Never let the flag touch the ground or floor and always fold it when not in use. Fly the flag only in daytime. Do not use the flag to cover a table, ceiling or monument, and never write on it. When an important American dies, fly your flag at half way up the pole. Do not use the flag for advertising. You are also not supposed to use the American flag for clothing, but judging by its popularity for everything from jackets to running pants to shorts, I would say this rule has easily been violated more than once.

Labour Day, Columbus day, Veteran's day and Halloween is followed.

Thanksgiving day: After the first harvest of the Plymouth colonists, a day of thanksgiving and prayer was proclaimed to be shared by all the colonists and neighboring Indians at a great feast. The thanks were not only for the bountiful food, but also for the help of teaching them how to plant, hunt, fish, nad then cook foods that were strange and unknown to them. Gradually the custom prevailed in New England of celebrating a day of thanks giving after each annual harvest with a several feast. It became a national American holiday many years later possibily because of a women named Sarah Hale. She was writing to president of US fo 40 years asking for a holiday of thanksgiving. At last she was succesful with Abraham Lincoln. Nowadays it is celebrated by a traditional dinner which main course is roast turkey.

Christmas: Even though they are traditionaly a religious holiday, people are used to many secular celebrations. Every year on Christmas eve, the American President turns on the lights of the huge Christmas tree situated near the White house. Around the Christmas season churches, various organisations, and newspapers ask for donations of money and food for the needy, and volunteers from the "Salvation Army" dress up like Santa Claus and stand in the street ringing a bell to collect money for the poor. Some welfare groups prepare hot meals and serve them to the homeless. In order to help to parents, a couple of weeks before Christmas you can find "Santa halpers" strategically placed all around shopping malls and stores. They sit in a chair, take kids on their laps and kids tell Santa what they want for Christmas. In the USA Christmas are not a family holiday, families invite friends to join them at dinner and often have give parties at Christmas-time.

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