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USA. National Symbols and traditions. National buildings and holidays.




1. National Symbols.

2. National Buildings and Monuments.

3. Holidays.


1. A flag with 13 blue and silver stripes was carried by an American military unit in Philadelphia in 1775. However, the 1st official American Flag, the Continental or Grand Union flag was displayed on Jan.1, 1775 when the Americans encircled Boston. It had 13 red and white stripes symbolizing the 1st 13 American States. The Union Jack of Britain containing the red cross of St. George and the white cross of St. Andrew was in the upper left corner of the flag. On June 14, 1777 the American Congress adopted the design for a new flag with 13 stars (one for each state) on the blue field instead of the British Union Jack. In 1818 Congress passed a law providing that the flag of the USA be 13 horizontal red and white stripes (7 red stripes and 6 white ones), and 20 stars symbolizing the 20 states of the American Union. It was also decided that on the admission of each new state to the union another star was to be added to the flag. Thus, today there are 50 stars in the flag, symbolizing the 50 states in the American Union. Alaska was the 49th state, and the 50th star was for Hawaii. The 13 red and white stripes symbolizing the first 13 states of the USA. That`s why the American flag is called “Stars and Stripes”. The red color in the flag symbolizes courage, the white – purity, and the blue color - firmness and justice.

The National Anthem. By a special Act of Congress in 1931, the famous song, The Star-Spangled (блестящий) Banner, became the National Anthem of the USA. However, the verses were written long ago in 1814 during the war between Britain and America by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer in Baltimore. In that year F.S. Key tried to free his friend, William Beans, who was held prisoner on a British ship in the Harbor of Baltimore. Using a boat to reach the British warship and carrying a white flag of peace as well as e letter from the American President, Key reached the British ship. The English agreed to free his friend, but they kept 2 men on board the ship because they were planning to bombard Fort McHenry which protected Baltimore from sea. Key watched the American flag above the fort during the bombardment. At sunrise the next morning he was very happy to see that the flag had not fallen. While on the ship he wrote the first verses of his poem, and finished in after he had returned to the shore. It was published in the paper The Baltimore American and right away it became very popular. When the flag is displayed and National Anthem is played, all who are present should face toward the flag and salute.


2. National Buildings and Monuments. The Capitol which is the seat of the Congress, is situated in Washington D.C., and is located on a plateau about 30 meters above the level of the Potomac River. The building got its name from the temple in Rome. The construction of the Capitol was begun in 1793. The Capitol consists of a central building which is crowned by a great dome with the Statue of Freedom on its top. The statue is of bronze and was put in its present position in 1863. The central building is connected at each end by galleries with a large wing, one of which contains the Chamber of the Senate, and the other – Hall of House of Representatives. Beneath the dome there is a large monumental hall called the Rotunda where you can see works of art describing American history, and sculptures of famous Americans. In 1814 British troops burned the interior of the Capitol, but after the war the damage was repaired. Some other changes were made, and by 1865 the Capitol received the form we see today.

The White House, the official residence of the President, is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D. C. The place covering 7 hectares of land was chosen by President Washington and Pierre L`Enfant, the French engineer who planned the city of Washington. The 1st cornerstone was laid in 1792, and the 1st president who moved into the White House in 1800 was John Adams. The building includes the mansion itself, the Executive Office, and the east and west terrace. The design of the White House was influenced by Leinster House situated in Dublin in Ireland. British troops burned the building in 1814 during Anglo-American war. During the reconstruction after the fire, the building was painted white, and since then it became traditionally called the white House. The rooms for public functions are on the 1st floor; the 2nd and 3d floors are used as residence of the President and His Family. The most famous public room is the East Room, where public receptions take place. Other public rooms are the Red Room, the Green Room, and the Blue Room. The State Dining Room, where as many as 54 persons can sit at a table, is used for official dinners. There are 132 rooms in the White House. The Oval Office, which is the President`s Office, is in the west wing of the White House.

The Washington National Monument is a beautiful monument in honor of G. Washington is located in the American capital, and is visited by more than 2 million people every year. It is a tapering (заостряющийся) white marble shaft (шпиль) 169 meters high. The work of construction was begun in 1848, and it was opened to the public in 1888. The monument looks like the obelisks of ancient Egypt. Memorial stones from the 50 states of the USA, foreign countries, cities and organizations, were put into the interior walls. The top platform is reached by a lift, and from there the visitors can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the American capital.

The Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island in the harbor of New York City. It was presented to the American people by the French government on the hundredth anniversary of American Independence. The Statue of Liberty is the work of the French Sculptor Frederic Bartholdi. It is a bronze female figure about 50 meters high facing the ocean from the Liberty Island. The right hand holds the torch (фонарь) of liberty 60 meters above the harbor, and it can be seen at night for many kilometers. A new American Museum of Immigration was opened at the base of the statue by President Richard Nixon on 26 September, 1972. The statue is hollow and stairway runs inside the figure to its top. From there you can enjoy the beautiful panorama of New York and the Harbor.

3) Many people spend New Year's Day resting. That's because they've stayed up most of the night, greeting the New Year! Some went to parties at friends' homes or at nightclubs. Others were out on the streets, throwing confetti and blowing noisemakers. Many people make New Year's resolutions (to eat less, to work more, etc.). Few people keep them.

In the 1950s and 1960s Martin Luther King, Jr., led the civil rights movement — the struggle for equal rights for black Americans. King was assassinated in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which falls in January, around King's birthday, is a time to celebrate the life and achievements of this great American.

Two other great Americans are honored on Presidents' Day. George Washington was the country's first president. Abraham Lincoln brought the country through the Civil War. Their birthdays were both in February and are celebrated together.

Memorial Day honors American soldiers killed in war. There are many parades on Memorial Day. Memorial Day, which comes on the last Monday in May, is also the unofficial beginning of the summer vacation season. On Memorial Day, many people go to the beach.

The most important American holiday is the Fourth of July, or Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. Many families celebrate the Fourth of July by having picnics and, at night, watching fireworks.

Labor Day honors the American worker. Just as Memorial Day means the beginning of summer, Labor Day, which falls on the first Monday in September, marks the end of summer. For many students, the school year starts the day after Labor day.

Columbus Day celebrates Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas in 1492. As Columbus was Italian, working for Spain, Columbus Day is especially important for many Italian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.

Although Halloween, on October 31, is not an official holiday, it is a very special day. On Halloween, children dress in costume as all kinds of things — as witches, ghosts, monsters, pirates, TV characters, and even computers and cereal boxes. The windows of many houses have Halloween decorations and jack-o'-lanterns. (Jack-o'-lanterns are pumpkins that have been carved with strange faces and have a candle inside.) The children go from house to house, knocking on doors and saying " trick or treat". The people in the houses give the children candy or some other treat. If they don't, the children might play a small trick on them!

In 1620 one of the first British settlements in America was established in Massachusetts. These settlers, known as Pilgrims, had come to America to freely practice their religion. They arrived in November, when it was too late to plant crops. Although many people died, the Pilgrims settlement survived the winter because of help from Indians who lived nearby. The Indians taught the Pilgrims about corn and showed them where to fish. The next November, after the crops were harvested, the „pilgrims gave thanks to God at a feast to which they invited the Indians.

Every year, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Families and friends get together for a big feast. The meal usually includes roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, a sweet sauce made from cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. What a meal! It's not surprising that a recent Thanksgiving tradition is to sit after dinner in front of the TV watching a professional football game.

Christmas, marking the birth of Christ in the Christian religion, is another time when many families get together. Christmas is an important time for giving gifts. In fact, people start buying gifts right after Thanksgiving, although Christmas is a month away. Many families put up a Christmas tree and bake lots of special Christmas cookies. Small children believe that their gifts come from Santa Claus. Their parents tell them that Santa lives in the North Pole and, on the night before Christmas, he travels the world in a sled pulled by reindeer. He goes down the chimneys of houses to leave gifts for children who have been good. Naturally, children are the first to get out of bed on Christmas morning!


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