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Festivals and special days in the US and UK

New Year. People celebrate the start of the new year by going to parties on New Year’s Eve. When midnight comes they say “Happy New Year” to each other, kiss each other, and sing a song called Auld Lang Syne (an old Scottish song). The New Year is seen as a time when people try to change their lives, for example by promising to stop smoking or to take more exercises.

President’s Day is a holiday in the US on the third Monday in February to remember the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 14th of February. It is a day when people celebrate romantic love, and send cards or give red roses or chocolates to the person they love. As a rule, a Valentine’s card is not signed by the person who sends it, so the person who receives it has to guess who it is from.

Mardi Gras is a carnival held in New Orleans, Lousiana, in the days before Lent (the period of 40 days before Easter, Lent is based on the belief that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert without food before he began his work as a religious teacher). There is drinking, dancing, entertainment, and a parade. Musical bands and people dressed in special clothes move along the street in decorated vehicles.

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day is day in the UK when people eat pancakes. It is the last day before Lent. In the past, Christians ate only simple food during Lent. People used up all their milk, butter, and eggs for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday because they were not allowed to eat them during Lent.

St. Patrick’s Day is on the 17th of March. It is the national day of Ireland, that is also celebrated by Irish people in the UK and US. People wear green clothes, dye flowers green, and go to the pub and drink beer.

Flag Day, the 14th of June, is a day when US people remember the day in 1777 when the Stars and Stripes (the US flag) was especially accepted and first used.

Halloween, the 31 of October, is the day when, in the past, people believed that the spirits of dead people appeared. Especially in the US, children celebrate Halloween by dressing as witches, ghosts and going «trick or treating». They knock on people’s doors, and people give them sweets and small presents.

Guy Fawkes’ Night, the 5th of November, is a day in the UK, when people light bonfires and let off fireworks. Traditionally this is done to remember the time when Guy Fawkes tried, but failed, to destroy the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder in 1605.

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November, is a national holiday in the US when people remember how, in the 17th century, Native Americans helped English people who had come to live in America by showing them how to grow local crops. People usually spend Thanksgiving Day with their families, and have a special meal of turkey and pumpkin pie.

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