Chapter Five: Christmas On 25
December Great Britain and the United States (and many other countries) celebrate Christmas. The word Christmas comes from the Old English "Cristes maesse", Christ's mass. On this day Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.
Kindness and giving are the spirit of Christmas. Charles Dickens, the famous British writer, wrote A Christmas Carol, a story about the true meaning of Christmas.
Why is Christmas celebrated on 25 December?
Christmas comes from two pagan festivals. People celebrated the winter solstice on 21 or 22 December. The Roman emperors chose 25 December as the birthday of the sun (natalis solis).
After the winter solstice, the days become longer and the sun is higher in the sky. In ancient Rome this was the season of Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a time of merry making. During Saturnalia the Romans exchanged presents.
The pagan tribes of northern Europe enjoyed a 12-day winter festival called Yule. Yule had its own traditions of Yule cakes, fir trees, holly,
mistletoe and presents. Fir trees and holly are still a symbol of Christmas.
Today a branch of mistletoe in the house has another meaning: when a boy and girl meet Under the mistletoe they usually kiss! The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is an ancient Celtic rite.
Medieval Christmas was a long event. It lasted twelve days like the Yule festival. Celebrations started on 25 December and ended on the night of 6 January.
Christmas is the biggest holiday on the American and British calendar.
However, in Scotland, New Year is more important.
In Great Britain and the United States people prepare for Christmas weeks before 25 December. Cities and towns are beautifully decorated with Christmas symbols: the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, colorful lights and much more. Shop windows are full of presents for everyone. People are busy buying presents. There are Santa Clauses everywhere. On street corners people sing Christmas carols. In Britain many children go carol singing with an adult. They go from house to house and sing. They usually receive money for their singing. They use this money to buy presents. There is a joyous atmosphere.
Christmas today respects many of the old traditions and has added new ones.
The modern Christmas tree originated in western Germany long ago.
The Germans put up a fir tree in their homes and decorated it with biscuits and candles.
German settlers took this tradition to North America in the 17th century.
By the 19th century Christmas trees were very popular in theUnited States.
In Britain the Christmas tree became popular after 1840. The German Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, took the Christmas tree to the British Royal Family. Soon the Christmas tree became popular all over Great Britain. There is a big tree every year in Trafalgar Square, London.
Today America's most famous Christmas tree is in the Rockefeller Center,New York City.
The Empire State Building in New York City is one of the tallest buildings in the world. At Christmas the top of the building is illuminated with red and green lights!
Today almost every Christian family has a decorated Christmas tree at home or in the garden. Some families put up the tree on Christmas Eve and others put it up at the beginning of December. Many families put a Nativity scene under the Christmas tree. St. Francis of Assisi created the first Nativity scene in the 1200's!
Many Americans wear Christmas clothes during the Christmas season.
These are clothes with Christmas colours and symbols.
Christmas crackers are an old tradition. They were invented in London,
Two people pull the cracker until it "bangs" and opens. Inside there is usually a small present, a paper hat and a joke.
In the United States there are "Christmas shops" in many cities, They sell all types of Christmas trees, ornaments and other decorations for the home, "Christmas shops" are open all year long, so you can buy your Christmas tree in June!
It is usual to send Christmas cards to relatives and friends. The first Christmas card was designed in Britain by John Callcott Horsley in 1843. A thousand copies of the card were printed in London. The design was a family party with the words "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you."
In the mid-19th century a shop owner in Albany, New York, made a card that said, "Christmas greetings from Pease's Great Variety Store." This was the beginning of the big Christmas card industry.
The figure of Santa Claus comes from St. Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop of Asia Minor. He was famous for his generosity and kindness. The Dutch settlers of New York brought the tradition of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) to America.
Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is an important part of the Christmas tradition, Children write letters to him and ask for special presents.
Today we see Santa Claus as an old man with a white beard, dressed in a red suit. He drives a sleigh pulled by reindeer and comes down the chimney with toys for the children. This image of Santa Claus was created by the American cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1863.
American and British children put out a stocking on Christmas Eve because they hope to receive presents from Santa Claus. Then they go to bed early because they want Santa Claus to come. Many Christians go to church services at midnight and others go on Christmas morning.
Christmas presents are usually opened on Christmas morning. After Christmas dinner many families listen to the traditional Queen's Speech in Britain and watch special Christmas television programmes. Children play with their new toys.
In Britain some people go for a Christmas Day swim in the sea or in a lake.
In Hyde Park in London some courageous people swim in the Serpentine!
Chapter Six: New Year's Eve
On 31 December everyone celebrates the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
In Scotland New Year's Eve is called Hogmanay. It is the most important celebration of the year. In Edinburgh there is an immense street celebration on New Year's Eve.
In America and Britain many people like going to parties or organising them in their homes. Some people prefer to celebrate in restaurants or night clubs. Young people celebrate at home or at a disco. Others go to masked balls in costumes and masks. Everyone takes off their mask at midnight.
Cheers, noise, music, dancing, colourful decorations, festive food and drink are all part of New Year's Eve. People like throwing confetti on the last night of the year. People wear their best party clothes on this exciting night. At parties everyone wears funny paper hats and blows toy horns.
Parties usually begin after 9 pm and continue until the next morning. At midnight everyone joins hands and sings the old Scottish song "Auld Lang Syne."
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
For the sake of auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear.
For auld lang syne.
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet.
For the sake of auld lang syne.
In New York City a favourite place to go on New Year's Eve is Times Square. At midnight the words "Happy New Year" appear on an electronic sign. Bells and sirens ring, people cheer and there is a lot of noise.
In London many people go to celebrate in Trafalgar Square. Everyone in Britain waits for Big Ben to strike midnight. Then there is a lot of noise.
People sing "Auld Lang Syne", kiss each other and cheer.
When we make a lot of noise on New Year's Eve we are following ancient traditions. Ancient civilizations made noise to frighten evil spirits of the past year.
On New Year's Eve the Americans and the British make New Year's resolutions or promises. They promise to get rid of bad habits during the new year. Some typical children's resolutions are: "I resolve to do my homework" or "I resolve to clean my room every day". Children write down their New Year’s resolutions, sign their name and give the paper to their parents.
Some typical adult's resolutions are: "I resolve to stop smoking" or "I resolve to go on a diet ". Most people don't keep their promises , but a few do! In some American cities office workers throw their old calendars out of the office windows on 31 December. They are throwing the old year away. It is incredible to see so much paper flying about. By 5:30 pm the streets are covered with office calendars.
At the end of the year astrologists predict the future for all the signs of the zodiac . Some astrologists predict catastrophic events.
UNIT 02 Day and Night
Part Two: The Nightingale’s Sacrifice
In the middle of the garden there was a beautiful rose tree. The Nightingale flew to the rose tree and said, "Give me a red rose," she cried,"and I will sing you my sweetest song."
"I'm sorry, my roses are white like the snow on the mountain and the foam of the sea," he answered. "Ask my brother who grows round the sundial. Perhaps he can help you."
The Nightingale flew to the sundial and said to the rose tree, "Give me a red rose,' she cried, 'and I will sing you my sweetest song."
"I'm sorry, my roses are yellow like the daffodil," he answered. "Ask my brother who grows under the Student's window. Perhaps he can help you."
The Nightingale flew to the window and asked the rose, "Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
"I'm sorry, my roses are red like the coral in the sea but the winter was cold and my branches are broken. This year I have no flowers."
"But I only need one red rose. Is there nothing I can do?"
"There is one thing you can do but I won't tell you. It is a terrible thing."
"Tell me what it is. I am not afraid," said the Nightingale.
"If you want a red rose you must build it by moonlight with music and color it with your own blood. You must sing to me all night and press your heart against one of my thorns. All night you must sing and your blood will become my blood."
"Death is a big price to pay for a rose," said the Nightingale. "Everybody likes life. I like life. I like to fly and to look at the flowers and to smell their perfumes in the wind. But love is better than life ... and the heart of a man is much more important than the heart of a bird. The Student will have his rose."
Part Three: The Red Rose
The Nightingale flew back to the garden and saw the student lying on the grass. His eyes were full of tears. "Be happy," the bird said. "You will have your red rose and tomorrow night you will dance with your love at the Prince's ball. I will make the rose for you by moonlight, with music and with my own heart's blood. I ask you just one thing, you must promise to be a true lover."
The Student looked up and listened but he didn't understand what the Nightingale was saying: he only understood things in books. But the oak tree understood and he said, "Sing me your sweetest song, little Nightingale.
I will be sad when you are not here." The Nightingale sang for the oak tree.
The Student heard the song and said, "Yes, this music is very beautiful but can a bird really understand love? She sings well but she is like an artist and everybody knows that artists are not sincere . She thinks only of music and could never do anything practical to help anybody." He got up, went into his house, lay on his bed and slept.
When night came and the moon shone, the Nightingale flew to the rose tree. She pressed her heart against one of his thorns. All night she sang her sweetest songs. The cold crystal moon listened and the Nightingale's blood slowly left her. At the top of the rose tree a flower started to grow. First it was pale, silver like the new day. But the tree cried "Come closer!"
The Nightingale came closer and sang louder, then the rose became pink like a red rose in a silver mirror.
"Come closer, little Nightingale," said the rose bush. "Come closer. If not,
the day will come before the rose is finished." The Nightingale came closer and as the thorn pierced her heart she sang of a love that never dies. She felt a strong pain and her voice became softer and softer. Finally the rose was ready, a marvelous red rose, red like the eastern skies.
Then the little Nightingale sang her most beautiful final song. The white moon heard it and she forgot the sun in the East and stayed in the sky to listen. The red rose heard the song and opened her petals in the cold morning air. The sleeping shepherds woke up when they heard it and the river carried its message to the sea. The rose tree heard the song and cried, "Look, little Nightingale, look. The rose is finished."
But the Nightingale didn't hear because she was dead on the grass with the thorn in her heart.
When is the longest day of the year in your country? You may think it is a summer day. In summer, the sun shines longer each day than in winter. In the case of New York City, the longest day is June 21st. The sun rises at 5:24 a.m. and sets at 8:30 p.m. So, people in New York City have more than 15 hours of sunlight on that day。
Select True or False
❶ In winter, people have more sunshine each day than in summer. (T/F)
❷ The longest day in New York is June 1st. (T/F)
❸ The sun sets at 8:30 p.m. on June 21st. (T/F)
More to know
··I’ll meet you at three。
··They go to bed at 9 o’clock。
*Read and circle the best answer。
❶ Which season do people usually think the longest day of the year is in?
a. summer b. fall c. winter
❷ When is the longest day in New York City?
a. May 26th b. June 10th c. June 21st
*Complete the sentence with the right answer。
❸ The sun rises at and sets at 8:30 p.m. on the
longest day in New York City。
a. 4:50 a.m. b. 5:24 a.m. c. 6:30 a.m。
❹ People in New York City have more than hours of
sunlight on the longest day。
a. 12 b. 13 c. 15
DESCRIBE THE PICTURE
*Unscramble the words in the box。
a barbecue People having are