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Halloween was first celebrated many centuries ago in Ireland and Scotland by Celtic priests called Druids. They observed the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. The Druids thought that Halloween was the night when the witches came out. As they were afraid of the witches they put on different clothes and painted their faces to deceive the evil spirits. They also placed food and small gifts near the doors of their houses for the witches. This was, as they say now, the beginning of the expression "trick or treat" (meaning "give me something or I’11 play a trick on you").

It is considered that Halloween was brought to America by the immigrants from Ireland and Scotland.

In the 19-th century they celebrated Halloween according to their old traditions: the integral part of the festival was a lantern made of a pumpkin with holes in the form of eyes, a nose and a mouth, and people believed that during the celebration all pumpkins were leaving their vegetable gardens to dance in the streets. As time went by, grown-up people lost interest in Halloween and it was celebrated almost entirely by children. Dressed very strangely, children held festivals.

During their carnival and after it groups of children visited nearby houses and asked for candies. ''Trick or treat! Trick or treat!" was heard everywhere.

In recent years, grown-up people have begun taking part in Halloween. In New York, for example, young and old take part in parades together.

On the 31-st of October, long before the time when the carnival procession begins to move, a great number of people get together in one of the streets. They dressed as witches, demons, and other evil spirits. There are hundreds of large orange "pumpkins" in their hands. After the parade the festival lasts almost till early morning. This is how the Americans celebrate Halloween.

Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November. It is one of the oldest American holidays. On Thanksgiving Day, Americans remember the Pilgrims a small group of people who came to America more than 350 years ago.

The Pilgrims wanted to practice religion in their own way. The government of England did not permit this, so the Pilgrims left England. In September 620.102 of them got on a ship and sailed to America. Their ship was named Mayflower.

The voyage was long and hard.The ship was small and crowded. Many Pilgrims became sick. Some of them died. After 66 days at sea, the Mayflower landed.

The Pilgrims named the place where they landed Plymouth. They started to build houses there, but winter came very soon. They were not ready for the cold. They did not have enough warm clothing. They did not have enough food. Half of them died that winter.

At last spring came. Some friendly Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant new vegetables, beans, corn and pumpkins. The Indians taught them how to hunt too.

During the summer of 1621, their crops grew. In the fall, the Pilgrims had a big harvest. They wanted to give thanks for the food, so they had a big feast. They invited their Indians friends.

The first Thanksgiving celebration lasted 3 days. There was plenty of food to eat. There was turkey with nuts, beans, cornbread and a sauce made from cranberries. For dessert there was pumpkin pie. During the celebration, the Indians and the Pilgrims played games together.

In the United States today, Thanksgiving is a lot like the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. Friends and families get together for a big dinner. They eat the same food the Pilgrims and Indians ate. They often watch a football game in the morning or afternoon. In some cities, like New York and Philadelphia, there are big Thanksgiving Day parades. For modern Americans, Thanksgiving Day is also a day for giving thanks for the good things they have enjoyed during the year.

Arbor Day is annual tree planting day observed in all states of the United States and in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Its purpose is to assist in foresting or reforesting scantily wooded areas or to beautify towns. It is generally held in co­operation with schools to impress children with the importance of conservation. In most Northern states, Arbor Day is proclaimed in April or May, or sometimes in March.

Because of climatic differences, the day is observed in some Southern states in the winter months, and in November in Puerto Rico.

The Arbor Day movement began in the United States in the 1800 "s. A number of public-spirited persons, alarmed by the rapid deforestation of many sections of the United States, urged that trees be planted systematically. The publication in 1864 "Man and Nature"' aroused widespread interest in the seriousness of the problem.

Bridsey G. Northrop, secretary of the Connecticut Board of Education, suggested that states might plant trees every year at the proper time, or supervises their planting. The first to propose a regular Arbor Day for the purpose was Julius S.Morton of Nebraska, who in 1872 succeeded in setting apart a day, April 10 in his state.

In 1885, when the legislature made Arbor Day a legal holiday, it choice Morton's birthday, April 22. Now 30 states and territories adopted the observance.

New Year's Eve is a time for merriment. At midnight bells ring, horns blow, and friends exchange kisses. Everyone stays up late to celebrate the arrival of another year.

At home or in restaurants most Americans spend the final hours of the old year and the first hours of the new year drinking and dining with friends. One popular New Year's Eve drink is eggnog, a thick, yellow concoction made with eggs, milk or cream, and sugar. Champagne – the drink that traditionally symbolized a celebration – is often served for the midnight toast on New Year's Eve.

One of the noisiest and most crowded of New Year's Eve celebrations takes place in New York City at Times Square. Thousands of New Yorkers gather there, and millions of Americans across the country join them via TV. After the New Year officially arrives, most partygoers enjoy a hearty snack. New Year's Eve festivities often continue until two or three o'clock in the morning.

Many people travel from one party to another to celebrate with several different groups of friends. In most households, everyone sleeps late, often enjoys brunch and TV with the family and friends.

Two famous New Year's Day festivals are televised for national viewing: the Tournament of Roses and the Mummer's Parade. Both of these events have been American traditions for more than half a century. The Mummer's Parade, which takes place in Philadelphia, is a ten-hour performance. It was introduced in the United States by Swedish immigrants.

The Mummer's Parade is colourful and high-spirited. The men dress in unusual costumes. There are clowns, musicians, dancers all led by King Moms. The Tournament of Roses takes place in Pasadena, California. Elaborate floats displaying roses and thousands of other California flowers depict a different theme each year. Prizes are awarded to the cities with most unusual and attractive floral displays. After the parade, the Rose Bowl football game, a contest between two top-ranking college football teams, is played.

New Year's Day has traditionally been the occasion for starting new programs and giving up bad habits. People talk about turning over a new leaf. Many Americans make New Year's resolutions, promising themselves and their families to improve their behaviour. Typical New Year's resolutions are to spend less money, give up smoking, begin a diet, or control one's temper.

On the third Sunday in June, fathers all across the United States are given presents, treated to dinner, or otherwise made to feel special. It is the official day on which fathers are honoured by their children. The origin of Father's Day is not clear. A strong promoter of the holiday was Mrs. Bruce John Dodd of Spokane, Washington.

In 1909, Mrs Dodd asked her minister to dedicate a special church service in memory of her father. His wife had died young, and he had raised six children without their mother. From then on, the state of Washington celebrated the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1916, the United States Congress declared Father's Day a national holiday.

Mother's Day was proclaimed a day for a national observance by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. Ann Jarvis from Grafron, West Virginia, had started the idea to have a day to honour mothers. She was the one choose the second Sunday in May and also the custom оf wearing a carnation. A red one symbolizes a living mother. A white one shows that the mother is dead. Many people attend religious services to honor parents. It is also a day when people whose parents are dead visit the cemetery. On these days families get together at home, as well as in restaurants. Another tradition is to give cards and gifts. Children make them in school. Many people make their own presents. These are valued more than the ones bought in stores.

Labour Day comes on the first Monday of September. It means to common Americans "the end of summer", "back to school". It marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. People go to the beach or mountains on picnics to enjoy the fine weather at the end of summer holiday season. In many cities parades of different labour organizations are held. Public schools open just before or after Labour Day.

First Labour Day was celebrated in 1882 in New York.

Memorial Day is observed on the May 30th. It is also known as Decoration Day. Its origin goes back to 1868 when the Commander-in- Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic issued an order to decorate the graves of soldiers who fell in the Civil War. Now it is also the day for honoring the memory of members of the Armed Forces killed in war. Special ceremonies are held in cemeteries, at monuments for the war dead, in churches, schools or other public places, The holiday is often marked by parades and baseball competitions. If you listen to the radio or TV on Memorial Day, you may hear many patriotic songs and a famous speech by Abraham Lincoln.

Memorial Day is also observed by the Armed Forces.

The 4th of July is the American nation's birthday. It honours the day in 1776 when The United States of America was proclaimed an independent republic. On that memorial day the Liberty Bell called the people of Philadelphia (the capital) to the State House to hear the Declaration of Independence read out. Communities, large and small, celebrated the day with speeches, parades and fireworks.

Each city and town organizes its own ceremonial parade, speeches by public officials, shows and evening fireworks displays fill the skies. There are baseball games, water-melon eating contests, folk dancing and lots of lovely music.

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