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AMERICAN HOLIDAYS

January New Years Day.

Throughout the western world the traditional New Year is celebrated beginning on December 31 by partying until the wee hours of the morning usually ending with a countdown of the seconds until midnight ,the magic hour, when the new year is officially ushered in.

A different twist on this traditional celebration might include creating ones own party favors i.e.: funny hats, noise makers and the like. Inspire your friends, family and guests to be creative by offering a special prize for the most original design.  You can check out the local library or bookstore for books that will offer you how to ideas that are fun and inexpensive to make.

Another way to make your New Years celebration unique and memorable is to surprise your friends, family and guests with a special one of a kind gift to get their year started off right.  A homemade gift basket for those special people in your life will be sure to be the kind of memory your loved ones will cherish the whole year through, day in and day out.  A basket tailored made for that fisherman, artist, gourmet cook or college student filled with special gadgets suited especially for them will always be appreciated.

A creative idea that is sure to be a fun-activity for the entire family is to make a New Years time capsule to be opened many years down the road.  Each member of the family can fill a large container such as an extra large coffee can or a king-sized open mouthed jar, (try the local grocery or deli to find these).  Everyone can decorate these items in their own special way and fill them with personal favorites such as photographs, newspaper articles, awards or a letter to the future describing life in the last half of the 20th century and maybe even include predictions of what life will be like in the year 2020! 

A festive idea for the beginning of the new year is to have friends, family and neighbors over for an Open House New Years Brunch.  Use make ahead favorites such as Brunswick stew or Quiche Lorraine with an ambrosia salad and French bread.  Keep it simple and enjoy spending quality time with your loved ones.

And last but not least, New Years Resolutions!

Millions of people usually begin the new year with the best intentions - those resolutions we make to get better organized, lose weight or learn a foreign language.  The little improvements that are meant to improve the quality of our lives and clean out those cobwebs are too often abandoned usually because we become too frustrated when we are unable to follow through on a goal that is too large or unrealistic.  An alternative to this blueprint for failure is to make a plan to follow through by creating a monthly resolution for each of the next twelve months.  How does one eat an elephant?  One bite at a time, so the saying goes.  Try focusing on how we might improve the lives of those around us.  Volunteer to help a charity just one day out of the month or prepare a meal for friend or co-worker just because.  You might find that these little good deeds might do more for your self-esteem than trying to make those same old resolutions you never keep.

January- the Third Monday.

The History of Martin Luther King Day

Who originated the idea of a national holiday in honor of MLK?


It took 15 years to create the federal Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, first introduced legislation for a commemorative holiday four days after King was assassinated in 1968. After the bill became stalled, petitions endorsing the holiday containing six million names were submitted to Congress.  Conyers and Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Democrat of New York, resubmitted King holiday legislation each subsequent legislative session. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.

Congress passed the holiday legislation in 1983, which was then signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. A compromise moving the holiday from Jan. 15, King's birthday, which was considered too close to Christmas and New Year's, to the third Monday in January helped overcome opposition to the law.

National Consensus on the Holiday

A number of states resisted celebrating the holiday. Some opponents said King did not deserve his own holidaycontending that the entire civil rights movement rather than one individual, however instrumental, should be honored. Several southern states include celebrations for various Confederate generals on that day. Arizona voters approved the holiday in 1992 after a threatened tourist boycott. In 1999, New Hampshire changed the name of Civil Rights Day to Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 19291968, American clergyman and civil rights leader Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., graduated from Morehouse College (B.A., 1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D., 1951), and Boston University (Ph.D., 1955). The son of the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King was ordained in 1947 and became (1954) minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala. He led the black boycott (195556) of segregated city bus lines and in 1956 gained a major victory and prestige as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to operate on a desegregated basis.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prepares to speak to a crowd of 200,000 marchers in Washingtion, DC.

King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which gave him a base to pursue further civil-rights activities, first in the South and later nationwide. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance led to his arrest on numerous occasions in the 1950s and 60s. His campaigns had mixed success, but the protest he led in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 brought him worldwide attention. He spearheaded the Aug., 1963, March on Washington, which brought together more than 200,000 people. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. King's leadership in the civil-rights movement was challenged in the mid-1960s as others grew more militant. His interests, however, widened from civil rights to include criticism of the Vietnam War and a deeper concern over poverty. His plans for a Poor People's March to Washington were interrupted (1968) for a trip to Memphis, Tenn., in support of striking sanitation workers. On Apr. 4, 1968, he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (since 1991 a civil-rights museum). James Earl Ray, a career criminal, pleaded guilty to the murder and was convicted, but he soon recanted, claiming he was duped into his plea. Ray's conviction was subsequently upheld, but he eventually received support from members of King's family, who believed King to have been the victim of a conspiracy. Ray died in prison in 1998. In a jury trial in Memphis in 1999 the King family won a wrongful-death judgment against Loyd Jowers, who claimed (1993) that he had arranged the killing for a Mafia figure. Many experts, however, were unconvinced by the verdict, and in 2000, after an 18-month investigation, the Justice Dept. discredited Jowers and concluded that there was no evidence of an assassination plot.

King wrote Stride toward Freedom (1958), Why We Can't Wait (1964), and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967). His birthday is a national holiday, celebrated on the third Monday in January. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, has carried on various aspects of his work. She also wrote My Life with Martin Luther King (1989).

See timeline of MLK's life and career

1968
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated; Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduces legislation for federal holiday to commemorate King

1973
Illinois is first state to adopt MLK Day as a state holiday

1983
Congress passes, President Reagan signs, legislation creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
1986
Federal MLK holiday goes into effect
1989
State MLK holiday adopted in 44 states
1999
New Hampshire becomes last state to adopt a state MLK holiday

During my stay to the USA I had a chance to visit Martin Luther Kings Memorial Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

February.  St. Valentine Day.  February 14

Valentines Day has its origins dating back to the Roman Empire when a young Christian man was martyred for refusing to give up his faith.  According to legend, before he died he wrote a farewell note to a young daughter of one of his jailers, who had befriended him, and signed it from your Valentine.

Today, modern traditions include cards, flowers and candy as ways to say I love you.  But if you are looking for something that will really say it in a BIG way try saying it with one of the following ideas.

Grown-ups and children alike can create their own special I.O.U coupons that entitle the recipient with special meaningful gifts of time and effort such as breakfast served in bed, a picnic by candlelight or wash and wax the car for mom and dad.  Dont forget the family pet!  Fido just might enjoy an extra walk around the block or a trip to the park.

If you have a really special significant other or family members who live fan away you can take some snapshots of yourself and or the kids and have a special calendar made.  A great way to say I Love You all year long.  Many photo development stores have the ability to produce this special one of a kind gift for very little money.

If making a calendar is a bit too ambitious for you try making a simple Valentines card out of construction paper and paper doilies.  Children and adults can participate in creating these charming expressions of love.  Try using some of those school wallet sized photos to insert inside.  Grandmother and grandfather will be delighted to receive such a special card.

Another fun way to celebrate the spirit of the day is just by performing random acts of kindness wherever you might find yourself.  Take a few minutes to have tea and cookies with an elderly neighbor down the street or offer to let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store. 

Bake some heart- shaped cookies and or a heart-shaped cake and take them into work and share the goodies with your co-workers.  Or simply buy a bag of chocolate kisses to share with the gang down at the office. 

A great idea for young adults or those without partners is to have a sleep-over party.  The fun will really begin when everyone brings their favorite video of their favorite romantic movie such as Casablanca, Sleepless in Seattle or Ghost. The evenings entertainment is sure to inspire loads of giggles as well as a teardrop or two.

Presidents' Day is celebrated in February to honor two of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The holiday is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday in February.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. When he was born, America was not a nation yet. It belonged to England, a country across the ocean. People in America didn't want to belong to England so they fought a war to become a separate country. George Washington was an American general in the war. America won the war and picked a new name for itself: The United States of America. George Washington was elected to be its first President.

A legend is told about George Washington as a boy. Young George had a new hatchet and with it he cut down a small cherry tree. When his father saw the tree, he was angry. "George," he said. "Did you do that?" George was afraid to admit that he did.Nevertheless, the boy decided to tell the truth. "Yes, Father," he said, "I cut down the cherry tree with my hatchet. I cannot tell a lie." George Washington's father was proud of George for telling the truth.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12 in 1809. Things were different then. When Abe was a boy, he lived in a log cabin. A log cabin is a small house made out of logs cut from trees. His father cut down the trees and made the cabin. There were no electric lights in the cabin. Young Abe read books by firelight and drew with charcoal on a shovel. Abe's family was poor. Often he went barefoot because he didn't have any shoes. When Abraham Lincoln grew up, he studied hard and became a lawyer. Then he was elected to be a law-maker. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States.

PRESIDENTS DAY

Back in Seventeen ninety-six
Is when this Holiday began
For the birthday of ol George
At least that was the plan.
It was his last full year
Of his Presidency
Born February twenty-second
Or the Eleventh, cause you see
The old calendar was different
Than the one we use today
And some celebrated one
Some people on the other day.
By the early Nineteenth Century
Celebrated every year
Birthnight Balls were held
Taverns reveled in good cheer.
Public figures gave their speeches
And Receptions given by a few
Then along came ol Abe Lincoln
His Birthday in February too.
In Eighteen and sixty-five
The year after Booths fatal shot
Both Houses of Congress gathered
For a Memorial and solemn thought.
Not a Federal Holiday like Georges
But legal in more than one State
And then a Resolution was enacted
Back in Nineteen sixty-eight.
They made the third Monday of the month
To make for a three day weekend
To honor Washington and Lincoln
And this story comes to its end.

~Del "Abe" Jones~
01-28-2005

George Washington Activities:

George Washington Recipe

Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the vanilla, butter, egg yolks and brown sugar until creamy. Add the flour and salt and mix well.

Have the children roll the dough into 1" balls and place them on greased cookie sheets. Have the children make a thumbprint in each ball and then place a maraschino cherry in each thumbprint. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. (Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

George Washington's Cherry Pie

Place one large graham cracker in a resealable plastic bag. Seal the bag, and smash it with your fist 20 times. Pour the crumbs into a clear plastic cup. Scoop 1 large spoonful of cherry pie filling on top of the graham crackers. Add whipped cream on top.

As you make the pie, say the following poem:
(tune of row, row, row, your boat)

Smash, smash, smash, the bag,
Then pour the crumblies out.
Scoop some goo,
Then squirt the cream...
It's cherry pie, no doubt.

Idea from Tamra---thanks!!

Abraham Lincoln Activities:

Abraham Lincoln Recipe

Celebrate ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY with your child or the children in your class by making Miniature Lincoln Logs! Here's how: Bake a white or yellow cake mix in paper baking cups as directed on the package. Cool and remove from papers. To form logs, put two cupcakes together end-to-end with ready-to-spread chocolate frosting. Frost sides, leaving ends of logs (tops of cupcakes) unfrosted. With small spatula make strokes in frosting to resemble bark. Decorate each log with a hatchet cut from red construction paper.

An art idea sent to me for making a log cabin:
We have the shape of a small house and open door cut out. The children glue this onto construction paper. Next they glue small pretzel sticks onto the house to resemble logs. Inside the door the children are given a shiny new penny and identify Abraham Lincoln's face on it. They glue it inside the open door. We talk about how log cabins were built prior to making our own.
Sherry sent in this great Lincoln activity below. Thanks, Sherry!

Read Just Like Abraham Lincoln by Bernard Waber.
Compare/contrast Mr. Potts and Abraham Lincoln (appearance, when they lived, occupation, clothing, height, favorite things to do, etc.)

Marilyn sent me this great Abe idea. Thanks, Marilyn!!

My students are studying Abe and we have really taken off on quite an expedition. Here's a fun activity--My children were impressed to find out the Abe was 6'4" tall--the children took large paper --and my best artist drew Abe--we measured him to be the exact height he was--the students were amazed at how tall he was. Then I took a Picture of each student standing in front of Abe-- they'll take it home to remember our thematic unit--

The kids are also in the process of finding out how big the log cabin actually was-- we'd like to find out it's measurements--as we'd like to make a floor model of it--and then see how it is that 7 and sometimes 8 people lived in that cabin--do you have any information on how big it was??
**webmaster note! does anyone have the answer to this? Please email me if you do! Thanks!

Marilyn wrote back with the answer to her own question:
"I found out through another source that the cabin was 16 y 18 feet--my kids and I will go outside and measure it--it should be fun to do--I just have to wait for a warm day here in NY--hopefully it won't be too bad next week. It's his birthday and the kids are thrilled to be celebrating it instead of Valentine's Day--who would have thought it."

March.  St. Patricks Day.

St. Patrick is the patron saint Ireland who spent his life converting the Irish to Christianity.  March 17 commemorates the anniversary of his death in 461 A.D.  Irish Americans celebrate by having parades and even those who are not of Irish descent get into the act.  Wearing something green is one way that many show their solidarity.  Shamrocks and leprechauns symbolize the folklore traditions of the old country.

One way to allow children to enjoy the spirit of the holiday is to play Find the Hidden Treasure.  According to legend Leprechauns, those tiny imaginary creatures akin to fairies, will try to buy their freedom if captured by offering to tell where a pot of gold is hidden.  Simply hide the pot of gold (use the chocolate gold foil wrapped coins) and let the children rush to find the hidden gold treasure.  A variation of Warm, Hot & Cold will be a helpful aid for younger children.

Another fun way to delight children is to surprise them with some green milk.  A new way to get that milk down those youngsters!  Before pouring the milk secretly add some green food coloring to the glass.  Just a few drops should do.  Wont they be surprised when the milk turns green when you pour that glass of milk.

And finally an activity that will teach children about horticulture.  A week or two before St. Patricks Day go to a landscape nursery and obtain some shamrock plantings.  The children can plant them in pots and water them and watch them grow.  Great idea to teach young people about how things grow.

In large cities long parades march through the streets. Bands play and people sing Irish songs.  Those who are not Irish themselves also wear green neckties and hair ribbons and take part in the celebrations.

April 1 All Fools Day



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