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In this blog, we examine different ways that Americans talk and act at three big holidays in the United States—Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Halloween occurs on October 31 and this date begins the holiday season in the United States. The next holiday is Thanksgiving which occurs on the 4th Thursday of November. December 25 is Christmas Day and, of course, December 31 is New Year’s Eve.

For these two months, Americans have many different traditions. Some of these traditions include exchanging greeting cards for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as decorating their homes and businesses for each of these holidays. Each of the holidays reflect a basic American value.

Thanksgiving The first Thanksgiving was held to celebrate the first year that European settlers survived in the United States in 1621. Today, Thanksgiving always occurs on the 4th Thursday in November. Most schools and universities are closed for at least Wednesday and Thursday of that week. Some are closed for the entire week. This is a time that families come together in the United States and eat a special meal together on Thanksgiving Day. There are also very important college football games on Thanksgiving Day afternoon.

The traditional food is turkey and dressing*, potatoes, cranberries and salads. The traditional dessert for Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie.. The traditional color for Thanksgiving is orange. The traditional symbols include things such as pumpkins, scarecrows and cornucopias. The reason for the holiday is to celebrate the “harvest”. This day is a time to be thankful for one’s blessings.

A Thanksgiving Dialogue between two American Friends

SARAH: Guess what? I’m going to the football game on Thursday. How about you – are you going to the game?

SUE: No. I promised my mom I’d help her with Thanksgiving dinner.

SARAH: Oh that’s nice. What kind of dressing does your family like?

SUE: Cornbread dressing. My job will be to chop the onions, celery and green pepper. My mom mixes all of that with cornbread and adds eggs, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Then she puts it in the turkey when she roasts it.

SARAH: Sounds delicious. It’s a tossup as to whether I like the food – turkey and *dresssing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie – or college football games the best on Thanksgiving Day.

SUE: For me, being with all my family is the most important part. And don’t forget Black Friday? Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day in the year. The bargains are fantastic!

SARAH: Actually, I love it all. I need to get up early on Friday to get the best buys! But this year, I’ll be in the stands**cheering on our team. I can’t believe that we got the Cotton Bowl*** Anyhow, happy Thanksgiving to you and to your family.

SUE: Thanks and happy Thanksgiving to you too!

A dialogue between an American student (Sarah) and Chinese student Liu Yang) who are in the

football stands, watching their university play football.

LIU YANG: OK, what does a “down” mean?

SARAH: It's like a team has 4 downs or 4 opportunities to try to move the ball for a minimum of 10 yards.

LIU YANG: What happens if they don’t move it 10 yards.

SARAH: Then they lose possession – in other words, they have to kick the ball as far down the field as they can to try to keep the other team for reaching the end of the field. The end or last line is called the goal line.

LIU YANG: Does that kick have a special word?

SARAH: Yeah, its called a punt.

LIU YANG: So what do you call the guy who throws the ball?

SARAH: He is the quarterback. And the guy who throws it back to him is called the center.

LIU YANG: Oh there is so much to learn.

SARAH: Really – don’t worry too much. Just relax, look at all the people, stand up and yell when I do – you’ll be fine.

LIU YANG: Oh what are those girls down there – they look like dancers.

SARAH: They’re cheerleaders. Listen, they will tell us what to yell.

CHEERLEADERS: Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar All for our university, stand up and hollar

LIU YANG and SARAH: Stand and yell, “Yea!!!!)

For more information about American football, click here.

*Dressing is a mixture of different types of bread, eggs, and vegetables. Some families put oysters in their dressing and other families put pork sausage in the dressing. It is put inside the turkey as it cooks. Each family has a special recipe for dressing that has usually been handed down from mother to daughter for generations.

**In the stands is an idiom that means to be in attendance at a football game. The seats where the spectators sit are called “the stands” – thus the term to be in the stands.

***Bowl Game. During the fall of each year, universities compete against one another in football During September and October, the teams play one game each week and two teams in each league who win the most games, have a chance to play on Thanksgiving Day. That game has a special name, depending on which city the game is held. For example the Cotton Bowl is in Dallas Texas and the Iron Bowl is in Birmingham, Alabama

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