American Holidays

by Jean Jones
Jean Jones is a teacher with English Language Institute in Ulaanbaatar. 

This is a reading exercise. The holidays talked about in the text have matching graphics below. The graphics are identified with letters (A-R), and the holidays that have graphics are identified by numbers (1-18). Students should read the paragraphs and then match the graphic with the holiday they’re reading about. For example, 1 is E for Labor Day, 2 is L for Halloween, and 3 is C for Veteran’s Day.

    For me, U.S. holidays always start with Labor Day (1) at the beginning of September. It’s the day we celebrate working people (labor =  work). To most Americans, it also means summer is over and school is starting. 
    On October 31, many Americans celebrate Halloween (2) by decorating everything with pumpkins, black cats, ghosts, and goblins. The children, especially, love Halloween because they can dress up in costumes, and they usually get lots of candy.
    Veteran’s Day (3) falls in November, and on that day, we think about and appreciate the men and women who have served in our armed forces — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. We have many famous memorials to our veteran’s, but the most famous one shows the soldiers planting the American flag.
    On the fourth Thursday in November, we celebrate Thanksgiving (4). Everyone loves to eat their Mom’s home-cooked turkey with all the fixins. (In the American South where I live, fixins is a colloquial word for food dishes that are eaten with the main dish.)  Yum!
    Christmas (5) is celebrated on December 25 every year. On that holiday, we remember the birth of Jesus, and there are always many opportunities to see the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus.
    Most Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve (6) by staying up until midnight, either at a party or at home watching TV, to ring in the New Year. And some people have New Year’s Day traditions, too, especially about food.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (7) is celebrated in January to remember the man who began the civil right’s movement. 
    In the U.S., Valentine’s Day (8) is observed on February 14 as people exchange valentine cards with friends and loved ones.
    President’s Day (9), in the middle of February, helps us to remember all our presidents, but especially George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, two of the most famous.
    St. Patrick’s Day (10) is in March, and most of the Irish people in the U.S. wear green to represent the shamrock, a three-petal leaf used by St. Patrick to explain the Trinity to Ireland.
    The Lenten season is especially important to many Christians in America. It begins on Ash Wednesday (11).  Some people go to church to have ashes put on their foreheads.  The ashes are from palm leaves burned the year before. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day Lenten Season when we remember Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. One week before Easter Sunday, we celebrate Palm Sunday (12) when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, and people waved and threw down palm branches. Good Friday (13) is the day that Jesus was crucified, and Easter (14) celebrates the day he rose from the dead. Many people color Easter eggs to symbolize Jesus coming back to life.
    In May, we celebrate Mother’s Day (15), and in June, Father’s Day (16). For both of those holidays, the children usually give gifts and cards to their parents.         Memorial Day (17) comes at the end of May. We remember all the men and women who were killed in wars fought by America. It’s a day for waving flags, and for most kids, it means the end of the school year is near.
    Independence Day (18), on July 4, celebrates American independence from Great Britain. Fireworks are everywhere, and the American flag is flown by many homes and businesses.