Рефераты. Традиции и праздники в США

Традиции и праздники в США

American Holidays and Traditions

It's Another New Year... (January 1)

...but for what reason?

"Happy New Year!" That greeting will be said and heard for at least the

first couple of weeks as a new year gets under way. But the day celebrated

as New Year's Day in modern America was not always January 1.


The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first

observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000

BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the

first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all,

it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming.

January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural

significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had

its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern

New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their

calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the

calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared

January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued

until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the

Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in

order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the

previous year drag on for 445 days.


Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new

year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But

as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its

own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations,

and New Year's Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the

Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations.

During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New

Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for

only about the past 400 years.


Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's

resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians.

Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit

smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return

borrowed farm equipment.

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of

the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated

the ripening of the orange crop in California.

Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the

Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the

following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports

centerpiece of the festival.

The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece

around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god

of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual

rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a

baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the

popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to

reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to

celebrate the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the

baby Jesus.

The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic

representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans.

They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.


Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would

have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of

the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the

first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends.

Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a

new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day

would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was

particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures

believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it

symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that

reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring

good fortune.

Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas.

These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-

eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many

cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it

symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is

consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a

sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some

regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.


The song, "Auld Lang Syne," playing in the background, is sung at the

stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to

bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the

1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations

of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the

modern rendition. An old Scotch tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old

long ago," or simply, "the good old days." The lyrics can be found here.

Valentine's Day! (February 14)

Not Like it Used To Be

February 14 is Valentine's Day. Although it is celebrated as a lovers'

holiday today, with the giving of candy, flowers, or other gifts between

couples in love, it originated in 5th Century Rome as a tribute to St.

Valentine, a Catholic bishop.

For eight hundred years prior to the establishment of Valentine's Day, the

Romans had practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February commemorating

young men's rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The celebration featured a

lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a

box. The girl assigned to each young man in that manner would be his sexual

companion during the remaining year.

In an effort to do away with the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius ordered a

slight change in the lottery. Instead of the names of young women, the box

would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were allowed to draw

from the box, and the game was to emulate the ways of the saint they drew

during the rest of the year. Needless to say, many of the young Roman men

were not too pleased with the rule changes.

Instead of the pagan god Lupercus, the Church looked for a suitable patron

saint of love to take his place. They found an appropriate choice in

Valentine, who, in AD 270 had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius.

Claudius had determined that married men made poor soldiers. So he banned

marriage from his empire. But Valentine would secretly marry young men that

came to him. When Claudius found out about Valentine, he first tried to

convert him to paganism. But Valentine reversed the strategy, trying

instead to convert Claudius. When he failed, he was stoned and beheaded.

During the days that Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the

blind daughter of his jailer. His love for her, and his great faith,

managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before his death.

Before he was taken to his death, he signed a farewell message to her,

"From your Valentine." The phrase has been used on his day ever since.

Although the lottery for women had been banned by the church, the mid-

February holiday in commemoration of St. Valentine was still used by Roman

men to seek the affection of women. It became a tradition for the men to

give the ones they admired handwritten messages of affection, containing

Valentine's name.

The first Valentine card grew out of this practice. The first true

Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, duke of Orleans, to his wife.

He was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the time.

Cupid, another symbol of the holiday, became associated with it because he

was the son of Venus, the Roman god of love and beauty. Cupid often appears

on Valentine cards.

Easter! (between the dates of March 22 and April 25)

The Traditions of Easter

As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter has been secularized and

commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and its symbols, however,

is not necessarily a modern fabrication.

Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second century, Easter

has had its non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally a pagan


The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious

festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime,

Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the

tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to

convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine


It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to

celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with

celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly

decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations

by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a

Christian manner.

As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of

year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made

sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian

celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was

eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

The Date of Easter

Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the

week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of

Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which

states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs

after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat

must be introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the ecclesiastical

full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation,

where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always

occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical

"vernal equinox" is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be

celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

The Lenten Season

Lent is the forty-six day period just prior to Easter Sunday. It begins on

Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") is a celebration,

sometimes called "Carnival," practiced around the world, on the Tuesday

prior to Ash Wednesday. It was designed as a way to "get it all out" before

the sacrifices of Lent began. New Orleans is the focal point of Mardi Gras

celebrations in the U.S. Read about the religious meanings of the Lenten


The Cross

The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection.

However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that

the Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a

symbol of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic

Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith.

The Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the

pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-

Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.

The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was

widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In

fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that


The Easter Egg

As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates

the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is

a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by


From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures.

Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored

brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.

Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along

with the modern version of real Easter eggs -- those made of plastic or

chocolate candy.

St. Patrick's Day! (March 17)

Customs and Traditions

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was

born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn't

get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required


Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At

that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that

raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to God.

He escaped from slavery after six years and went to Gaul where he studied

in the monastery under St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre for a period of

twelve years. During his training he became aware that his calling was to

convert the pagans to Christianity.

His wishes were to return to Ireland, to convert the native pagans to

Christianity. But his superiors instead appointed St. Palladius. But two

years later, Palladius transferred to Scotland. Patrick, having adopted

that Christian name earlier, was then appointed as second bishop to


Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. And this fact upset the

Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time.

He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the

country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his

conversion of the Irish country to Christianity.

His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. After that time, Patrick

retired to County Down. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been

commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

Much Irish folklore surrounds St. Patrick's Day. Not much of it is actually


Some of this lore includes the belief that Patrick raised people from the

dead. He also is said to have given a sermon from a hilltop that drove all

the snakes from Ireland. Of course, no snakes were ever native to Ireland,

and some people think this is a metaphor for the conversion of the pagans.

Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into

more of a secular holiday.

One traditional icon of the day is the shamrock. And this stems from a more

bona fide Irish tale that tells how Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock

to explain the Trinity. He used it in his sermons to represent how the

Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements

of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock

on his feast day.

The St. Patrick's Day custom came to America in 1737. That was the first

year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in this country, in Boston.

Groundhog Day! (March 20)

How Did the Groundhog Get a Day of His Own?

The lowly groundhog, often called a woodchuck, is the only mammal to have a

day named in his honor. The groundhog's day is February 2. Granted, it’s

not a federal holiday; nobody gets off work. But still, to have a day named

after you is quite a feat.

How did the groundhog come by this honor?

It stems from the ancient belief that hibernating creatures were able to

predict the arrival of springtime by their emergence.

The German immigrants known as Pennsylvania Dutch brought the tradition to

America in the 18th century. They had once regarded the badger as the

winter-spring barometer. But the job was reassigned to the groundhog after

importing their Candlemas traditions to the U.S. Candlemas commemorates the

ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus.

Candlemas is one of the four "cross-quarters" of the year, occurring half

way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring.

Traditionally, it was believed that if Candlemas was sunny, the remaining

six weeks of winter would be stormy and cold. But if it rained or snowed on

Candlemas, the rest of the winter would be mild. If an animal "sees its

shadow," it must be sunny, so more wintry weather is predicted:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

The groundhog and badger were not the only animals that have been used to

predict spring. Other Europeans used the bear or hedgehog--but in any case

the honor belonged to a creature that hibernated. Its emergence symbolized

the imminent arrival of spring.

Traditionally, the groundhog is supposed to awaken on February 2, Groundhog

Day, and come up out of his burrow. If he sees his shadow, he will return

to the burrow for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow,

he remains outside and starts his year, because he knows that spring has

arrived early.

In the U.S., the “official” groundhog is kept in Punxsutawney,

Pennsylvania. Every February 2, amid a raucous celebration early in the

morning, “Punxsutawney Phil” as the groundhog is called, is pulled from his

den by his keepers, who are dressed in tuxedos. Phil then whispers his

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