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Culture Guide USA

Welcome to January and to the first Culture Guide of 2017!

As the New Year begins, let’s take a look at other important “beginnings” in American history, including the births of a civil rights champion and a cultural icon. We’ll also introduce you to a national park in Colorado that gives visitors an incredible look back in time.

Martin Luther King Day
History/Volunteer

Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader

Martin Luther King, Jr., was an important figure in the U.S. civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, political activist, and amazing public speaker who fought against the discrimination of African Americans. He believed in creating political and social change through peaceful protest. In 1963, King and other civil rights leaders organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. They led 250,000 protesters to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. At this event, King gave his famous I Have a Dream speech, calling for racial equality, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1983, Congress established a federal holiday marking King’s birthday (January 15, 1929). The holiday is observed on the third Monday in January each year. You can honor and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by taking part in a day of service. Click here to find a volunteer project near you.

Inauguration
Culture

Inauguration Day, 2017

The inauguration of the President of the United States is a ceremonial event marking the beginning of a new four-year term of a U.S. president. This year Inauguration Day will take place on January 20, 2017. On this day Donald Trump will assume the role of chief executive of the United States. He will be named the 45th president and sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at noon, when the term of President Barack Obama expires. This event, as well as the inaugural ball, has been held every four years since May 7, 1789 when the first ball was put on in honor of President George Washington.

Elvis, America’s King of Rock and Roll
Pop Culture

Elvis, America’s King of Rock and Roll

Elvis Presley was one of America’s most-beloved performers and is still one of this country’s most recognizable cultural icons. He was born in January 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi. Elvis made the musical genre rockabilly (listen here) popular, and became the first international rock ’n’ roll superstar. Elvis was just 21 when he released his Billboard-chart-topping debut album. He followed it with television appearances, including this famous one on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” one of the most-popular TV programs of the time.

Mesa Verde National Park
National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Whether you love history, the great outdoors, or both, a visit to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is worth the trip. This park is home to thousands of archeological sites, including legendary Pueblo cliff dwellings that are more than 1,400 years old. Built into a series of caves and cliffs, these structures were once home to the Ancestral Pueblo people, whose origins still fascinate archaeologists today. Don’t miss the ancient Pueblo artifacts at the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, and take a free guided tour of the park’s most well-preserved dwelling: Spruce Tree House.

In this month’s Culture Guide, we’ll introduce you to three different American holidays and a special national park.

President's Day
Holiday

President's Day

Presidents’ Day is a national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. It was first observed in 1879 to honor the life and accomplishments of America’s founding father, George Washington, who was born February 22, 1732.

World Cancer Day
Volunteering

World Cancer Day

February 4th is World Cancer Day. On this day consider volunteering your time to participate in an American Cancer Society fundraiser or walk hosted in your local community. Your unique talents will make a real difference, and you can choose from volunteer positions that match your interests, allow you to learn new skills and fit in your schedule.

African-American History Month
Monthly Recognition

African-American History Month

This month we also recognize and celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in U.S. history. African-American History Month grew out of Negro History Week, which was started in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African-Americans. The event was not officially recognized until 1976, when President Ford officially named it. Each year, a different theme is designated to the month long celebration.

Glacier National Park
National Park

Glacier National Park

Whether you’re a fan of February’s cold weather or not Glacier National Park is sure to amaze you. Glacier is in Montana, on the border of the United States and Canada.

Known as the Crown of the Continent, the park is home to more than 1 million acres of beautiful wilderness, towering mountain peaks with stunning views, more than 700 miles of trails, many picturesque lakes, and countless species of plants and animals.

Here’s your guide to key events in the United States in the month of March. From fast-paced basketball games to celebrating Irish heritage, there’s something for everyone. Plus, learn about a unique national park in Florida, the sunny southern state where many Americans long to be this time of year.

Women's History Month
Monthly Recognition

Women's History Month

In March, Americans celebrate the women who helped shape America, including those who fought for the right to vote in 1920. Schools all over the country dedicate this month to celebrating special American women, including Delilah L. Beasley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Margaret Sanger. A number of museums, such as the Smithsonian, hold events to teach people during this historic month. Find one near you, and learn about the contributions of these remarkable women.

Habitat for Humanity
Volunteer

Habitat for Humanity

With temperatures slowly rising across the U.S. it’s a great time to get outside and volunteer in your community. Habitat for Humanity provides volunteer opportunities for people like you, to give back to local families who are without homes. Through this transformation, families achieve the strength, stability and independence they need to build a better life.

St. Patrick's Day
Holidays

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day celebrates Irish culture. Since the Irish immigrated here in the late 19th century, they have helped build and influence America. Today, more than 36 million people can trace their families back to Ireland – and this is the day we celebrate that heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is on March 17, and there will plenty of festivities on that day and the weekend before it. There are parades all over the country, where the Irish wear kilts, play bagpipes, and march down the street. On March 17, everyone in America is Irish!

Biscayne National Park
National Park

Biscayne National Park

Though the weather is still cold during March in most of the country, warm up with a trip to Biscayne National Park. Located in southern Florida near Miami, this park preserves Biscayne Bay and its aquatic wildlife. Almost all of the park is covered by water – it even features the remains of pirate ships that sunk long ago. So put on your snorkeling gear and plunge into the beautiful waters. Swim among the coral reef with more than 500 species of fish, plus turtles and manatees. Travel the waters on one of Biscayne’s guided canoe and kayak trips. You can also camp, hike, and watch birds. When your adventures are done, pull up a chair, look out at the water, and admire the beauty of this natural treasure.

April usually brings the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Flowers bloom, trees sprout leaves, the weather is warmer, and people get outside more. Enjoy the sun while you read a book, watch a baseball game, go on an adventure in Big Bend National Park, or learn about an iconic American company. This month, there’s much to do and explore!

American Literature
Culture

American Literature

Great American Novel is a name Americans give to certain well-written stories with unforgettable characters. These books are special because they capture certain periods in American culture and history. One favorite is “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the 1920s, this is the story of the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby, who spends his life and a great deal of money trying to win back the woman he loves. It’s considered one of the greatest books from the 20th century. The novel was adapted into a 2013 film with the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.

Spring Brings Baseball Season
Sports

Spring Brings Baseball Season

Baseball has been part of American culture since the mid-1800s. The sport is so popular that it commonly is called “America’s pastime.” Each year, Americans gather in stadiums or in front of televisions to watch their favorite teams. Fans cheer them on all spring and through the summer, hoping their teams make it to the World Series championship in October. It’s a long season with 162 games. Major League Baseball (MLB) has some extraordinary teams, like the New York Yankees, who have won more championships than any other professional sports team in America. Go to a game. Experience this great sport for yourself. Eat hot dogs and Cracker Jack®, cheer with fans, and raise your baseball glove to catch a fly ball!

Apple: An American Icon
Technology

Apple: An American Icon

On April 1, 1976, a man named Steve Jobs founded a small computer business in a garage. He called this company Apple. In 1984, Jobs introduced the Macintosh computer, the product that made Apple a huge success. Nearly 40 years later, Apple is one of the most powerful corporations in the world. Each year, it improves technology and introduces new, popular products. The iPod, iPhone, MacBook, and iPad are Apple products that have changed our lifestyles and the way we interact. More than half of all American households own at least one Apple product.

Big Bend National Park
National Park

Big Bend National Park

More than 300,000 people visit Big Bend National Park each year to explore its beauty, wildlife, and history. The park includes more than 800,000 acres of land in west Texas. That’s bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! Big Bend’s canyons hold thousands of years of human history. Visit sites that were the homes of adventurous Americans in the early 1900s, and an old mine where workers took valuable mercury from deep in the earth. With 450 types of birds, Big Bend is a great place for bird-watching. So put on your backpack and hike Big Bend’s canyons and cliffs. Travel the Rio Grande by kayak or canoe, and ride horses or bike the trails. Stay a few days in one of the park resorts, and make your trip an adventure!

April showers bring May flowers – and May usually brings beautiful, warm weather and fun activities. This month, take time to visit historic sites and celebrate an American holiday. Watch the fastest horses in the country race for victory, and explore a national park. Welcome, and make the most of May in the United States!

See the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”
Sports

See the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”

The Kentucky Derby horse race ends almost as quickly as it begins – but it’s a thrilling American tradition you won’t want to miss! Held every spring for more than 140 years, the Kentucky Derby is a 1¼-mile race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Derby is the first of three races held every year that make up the U.S. Triple Crown. The next two races are called the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – and a horse must win all three to be the Triple Crown champion. Only 11 horses have accomplished this. Sir Barton was the first in 1919, and Secretariat is the most famous Triple Crown winner (don’t miss the movie!). The most recent Triple Crown winner was American Pharaoh in 2015.

Memorial Day
Holiday

Memorial Day

This holiday originally was created in the 1800s to remember soldiers who died in the American Civil War. Now, on the last Monday of May each year, Americans honor every American soldier who died in military service. On this special day, most businesses and schools are closed. Soldiers’ graves are marked with American flags, and we hold parades to pay tribute to the men and women who bravely sacrificed their lives for their country. Americans hold ceremonies at cemeteries and war memorials all over the nation.

This holiday weekend also marks the unofficial start to summer. To celebrate, friends and families relax in backyards and on beaches. Many host delicious barbeques and enjoy American favorites from the grill: burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and more.

World Hunger Day<
Volunteer

World Hunger Day

Help solve hunger in the U.S. by giving your time and serving the community. Volunteer at a foodbank or soup kitchen on World Hunger Day this month and you will be taking part in helping millions receive the food that they need. Find an opportunity through the Feeding America network, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

Yellowstone National Park
National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in America – and the first in the world! Located mostly in Wyoming, it was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, and includes more than 2 million acres of dramatic wilderness. Yellowstone has the world’s largest collection of hot springs. In fact, it was founded to protect these springs. Yellowstone’s greatest and most popular hot spring is Old Faithful, which shoots more than 4,000 gallons of boiling water 100 feet into the air every 90 minutes.

June marks the beginning of summer, a warm season with lots of fun in the sun. It’s the perfect time for vacation, visits to beaches, and grilling burgers and hot dogs outside. American kids finish a school year and take a break until late summer. Join us to learn more, read about the American flag and two special American women. And get an inside look at one of America’s greatest national parks.

See the 'Volunteer in your Community' image
Season

Volunteer in your Community

Summer is a great time to take part in the proud American tradition of volunteering. Donating some of your free time to a project or service in your community is a great way to get to know local people. One date to keep in mind is June 8, World Oceans Day. This year’s theme is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet,” and features activities that promote the prevention of plastic pollution in oceans. Whether you’re in Florida or Kansas, we can all make a difference. Also, Volunteer Match is another great resource for finding opportunities in your area. There really is no greater feeling than the satisfaction of helping others.

Flag Day
Holiday

Flag Day

On June 14, Americans celebrate Flag Day. This holiday marks the date when America chose its red, white, and blue flag more than 200 years ago. The flag was created during the American Revolution, when the 13 American colonies rebelled against the British Empire. Many believe a young woman named Betsy Ross was hired by George Washington to design the first American flag. It had 13 stars and stripes to represent the original 13 colonies. But did Betsy Ross actually design the first flag? Why were the colors red, white, and blue? Why stars and stripes? No one knows for sure.

Women in Flight
History

Women in Flight

June marks the anniversary of the historic flights of two American heroes, Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. Their feats took place 50 years apart, yet both women made record-setting flights. Earhart was the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Ride was the first American woman in space.

Explore Towering Redwood Trees
National Park

Explore Towering Redwood Trees

California is also home to Redwood National and State Parks, in the northern part of the state. These parks have a lot to offer, but it’s the towering coast redwood trees that make them so famous. At an average height of 300 feet, the coast redwood is the tallest type of tree in the world. Redwoods can grow up to 30 feet in diameter – wide enough to drive a car through! Today, these rare trees can be found only in California, Oregon, and China.

Americans first declared independence from the British crown in July, making this a special month in America. Learn about our most patriotic holiday and the celebrated push for freedom. Learn how to find opportunities to get outside and volunteer your time to help preserve America’s national parks, and read about a national park that’s full of historic treasures.

July 4th
Holiday

The Most Patriotic Day of the Year

On July 4, Americans celebrate the birth of the United States. Some grill a special outdoor meal with family and friends. Others go to the beach to relax, swim, and play. Nearly everyone looks forward to dazzling fireworks. Some of the biggest celebrations include the incredible fireworks show in the New York City, the Boston Pops Firework Spectacular in Boston and A Capitol Fourth in Washington, D.C.

The Declaration of Independence
History

Fun Facts About the Declaration of Independence

America's most treasured document was approved on July 4, 1776. Did you know...

  • The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, but it wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.
  • It was signed by 56 people.
  • Two of the signees became U.S. presidents – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Both leaders died on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after the Declaration was approved.
  • On the back of the Declaration, there's a message written upside down.

If you’ll be in Washington, D.C., this summer, visit the National Archives, where you can see this document, as well as the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Volunteering in national parks and public lands
Volunteering

Be a Part of an American Tradition

Do you enjoy spending time outside and being close to nature? Volunteer.gov is a wonderful resource to find volunteer opportunities within national parks and other public lands in the U.S. Donating some of your free time to help preserve America’s natural heritage is a fun way to meet new people and give back. We want to see all the wonderful work you’re doing in the community. Make sure to share photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram using #CIEEGivingBack.

The National Mall in Washington, D.C.
National Monument

Not Your Typical American Mall

The crowds at this mall aren’t shopping – they’re celebrating U.S. history. The National Mall is home to important historic sites, such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the U.S. Capitol. War memorials such as the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorate the lives of fallen soldiers. The National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Castle, and other museums also are located in this incredible area. With so much to see, it’s no wonder that 24 million people visit the National Mall annually.

For many Americans, summer is a time to squeeze in as much outdoor fun as possible. Take a trip to the beach, watch a ball game, hike at a park, or a visit one of the iconic U.S. destinations in this month’s Culture Guide. August is a great time to get out and explore.

Historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
History

Visit historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Take a trip to Gettysburg National Military Park, and get a close look at a noted chapter in American history. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 is considered a turning point of the Civil War, the war that defined the nation. Here, the Union Army defeated the Confederacy, and more than 30,000 soldiers were killed or wounded. The battlefields have been preserved as a 59,000 acre park. Its rolling hills are crisscrossed by hiking trials and 40 miles of roads that make it easy to explore this special site and its 14,000 monuments.

The Statue of Liberty
National Monument

The Statue of Liberty: America’s leading lady

The world-famous Statue of Liberty has stood on Liberty Island in New York Harbor since 1886. A symbol of American freedom, the 150-foot copper statue of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, was a gift from France. It has welcomed countless immigrants who traveled to the United States by boat. “Lady Liberty” wears a crown, and holds a torch and a tablet inscribed in Roman numerals with the date of America’s independence: July 4, 1776. The statue also is known for its green color. Made of copper, it originally looked like this. See this impressive national monument for yourself with a boat tour from Manhattan.

Volunteer
Volunteer

Volunteer – Support a good cause

Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your community and meet new people. In honor of Women's Equality Day, this month we are highlighting the YWCA – an organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Make sure to share photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram using #CIEEGivingBack and #ServiceLearningSaturday.

Mesa Verde National Park
National Park

The Grand Canyon – truly awesome

Located in northwest corner of Arizona near Utah and Nevada, the Grand Canyon is a natural wonder. Nearly 300 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep, this massive landmark and its stunning views draw 5 million visitors each year. The red canyons were gradually formed over many years, as the Colorado River wore down the rock. Want to plan a visit? Download this guide from the National Park Service. Can’t make it? Take this virtual tour of the Grand Canyon!

In America, September signals an end and a beginning. For many U.S. students, it’s the end of summer vacation and time to head back to school. Many Americans look forward to cooler, crisper weather, and fall favorites like football and Labor Day picnics. You can take a closer look at some fall traditions in this month’s Culture Guide, as well as a quick visit to the home of American democracy, Washington, D.C.

Students celebrating Labor Day
Holiday

Celebrating Labor Day

Unlike most, this is a Monday to look forward to! On the first Monday of September, U.S. businesses and schools close to celebrate Labor Day. The first Labor Day took place in 1882 in New York City when many labor unions joined forces to celebrate workingmen in the city. The idea quickly spread throughout the country. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland named Labor Day a national holiday.

American Football on pitch
Sport

It’s Not Fall without Football

American football, unlike football in the rest of the world, involves an oval-shaped ball. There’s a lot of contact as players tackle each other, trying to stop the other team from passing, or running the ball to the end of the field and scoring a touchdown. Football is played by kids, high school and college athletes, and professionals in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL features 32 teams, all hoping to make the championship game called the Super Bowl at the end of the season. Many NFL football games are played on Sundays, so don’t be surprised to see Americans wearing their team jerseys and gathering around the TV with family and friends to cheer for their teams. This Sunday ritual often includes eating chicken wings, chili, nachos, and more. Get in on the fun!

Volunteer
Volunteer

Support Young People in Your Community

Do you enjoy spending time with young people? Whether you tutor a student, coach a team or participate in a fundraising event, volunteering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a great way to meet new people and give back to your community.

CIEE participants in front of the White House
National Park

President’s Park

President's Park in Washington, D.C., is the home of the White House, where the U.S. president lives. America’s first president, George Washington, chose the site for the White House in 1791, and the home was built between 1792 and 1800. British soldiers burned it down during the War of 1812. President James Monroe moved into the rebuilt White House in 1817, while it was still under construction. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the White House has been renovated several times. It includes 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, and three elevators! If you’ll be in Washington, D.C., be sure to visit! Check the White House Tours schedule here.

October is the heart of autumn, when many Americans enjoy changing leaves, pumpkins, hayrides, and corn mazes. Make the most of this month, with information on seasonal activities and holiday celebrations you won’t want to miss. Plus, get an inside look at a special national park in California.

Jack-o-Lanterns
Seasonal Activity

Carve a Pumpkin

If September is the month for picking apples, then October is the time for carving pumpkins! A type of squash, these round, orange fruits are a popular Halloween decoration. They come in all sizes and can be found just about anywhere in America. Head to a pumpkin patch nearby and choose the perfect one.

Once you’ve made your pick, it’s time to start carving! Just hack off the top and scrape out the insides. Then carve a face into your pumpkin. It can look scary, funny, beautiful – anything you want! Here are some creative ideas to get you started. When your masterpiece is finished, put it somewhere to be noticed: the windowsill, front steps, anywhere! Then at night, carefully place a small light or a burning candle inside your pumpkin to turn it into a glowing jack-o-lantern.

Joshua Tree
National Park

Explore a California Treasure – Joshua Tree National Park

At first glance, Joshua Tree National Park looks bleak and lonely. But with a closer look, you’ll see that these desert lands in southeastern California are home to 52 mammals, more than 250 birds, and more than 750 plants.

One of these plants – the Joshua Tree – plays a big role in the desert ecosystem. It provides shelter for many lizards, birds, and insects. The Native Americans who once lived here used its leaves to make sandals and baskets, and ate its seeds. According to legend, in the 19th century, Mormon people were guided through the desert by the branches of these trees, and so the Mormons named them after the biblical figure Joshua.

There’s much more to learn at Joshua Tree National Park, and even more to do. If you plan a trip, make time for rock climbing, stargazing, camping, hiking, or birding. Adventure is waiting in the California desert!

Columbus
Holiday

Celebrate Columbus Day

Columbus Day marks the discovery of America. In 1492, famous Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He was looking for a shorter route to Asia. Instead, on October 12, 1492, he found the New World: the Americas. He landed on an island and named it “San Salvador.” Today, it’s known as one of the islands in the Bahamas.

For Christopher Columbus and his crew, the new world offered new land, new opportunities, and new people: Native Americans.

We honor Columbus’s achievement on the second Monday of October. This year, Columbus Day falls on October 10. Many communities host parades, like this one in New York City. However, not all of America celebrates this holiday. Columbus’s discovery brought Europeans to the Americas, but it also destroyed many Native American homes and tribes. Because of this, states like California, Oregon, Nevada, and Hawaii do not celebrate this holiday. But either way you look at it, America wouldn’t be what it is today without Christopher Columbus.

CIEE participants together in field
Volunteer

Make a Difference Day

Do you enjoy taking the time to give back to your community? Whether you tutor a student, coach a team or participate in a fundraising event, volunteering on Make A Difference Day is a great way to meet new people and rack up some volunteering hours.

For more than two decades, Make A Difference Day has been celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in October. This national event in the U.S. connects volunteers with opportunities to serve, increases the strength of communities and promotes civic engagement. Visit, United Way to find volunteer opportunities in a location near you.

Edgar Allen Poe portrait
History

Edgar Allan Poe – the Original Mystery Man

The life of Edgar Allan Poe was as strange and eerie as his stories. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1809, Poe dedicated his life to writing. He was an author, a poet, an editor, and a critic; a master of suspense, mystery, and horror. He knew how to terrify readers with words. He was a part of the American Romanticism movement; he was one of the first authors to write short stories. It’s even said that he invented the mystery genre.

When Poe died in October 1849, he was a poor, struggling artist. Today, he’s known as one of the great American writers. His works have influenced many American authors; works like “The Raven,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

October is the perfect time to honor Poe’s contributions to literature. Travel to Richmond, Virginia, to explore The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe. Or if you’re in or near Baltimore, Maryland, visit Poe's grave (and keep an eye out for the mysterious Poe Toaster).

For Americans, November brings cooler temperatures, football, elections, and the beginning of the holiday season. Read more in this month’s Culture Guide USA, and make the most of this great month in the United States!

White house
Politics

November is Voting Time

Every four years, the president of the United States is elected into office on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The U.S. government is made up of three parts: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president leads the executive branch and enforces federal laws made by the legislative branch. The president also appoints federal officers, such as Supreme Court Justices, and maintains relations with foreign nations. The president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, with power to direct all military forces.

Women with Veterans
Holiday

Celebrate Veterans Day

Each year on November 11, Americans celebrate Veterans Day to honor and thank those who have served in the U.S military. Established as Armistice Day in 1918, the holiday’s original purpose was to celebrate the end of World War I. President Eisenhower made Veterans Day official in 1954. Communities across the United States hold parades and other events to honor veterans, and a national Veterans Day Ceremony takes place each year at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Veterans Day is a great opportunity to get involved in your host community. Watch a parade, volunteer at a local Veterans Affairs Center, or simply talk to a military veteran. You might hear about American history directly from someone who helped shape it.

Thanksgiving meal
Holiday

Give Thanks on Thanksgiving

Many Americans look forward to this special day all year. On this holiday, Americans gather to give thanks with family and friends, and share a feast. Thanksgiving takes place every year on the fourth Thursday of November. The holiday was established in 1621 when Native Americans and the first British pilgrims to settle in America gathered to celebrate a successful harvest.

Today, a similar traditional meal is still the main focus of this holiday. On Thanksgiving Day, Americans spend a lot of time preparing dinner. The meal usually includes turkey with stuffing (made with bread crumbs, herbs, and other ingredients), mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Shenandoah in Fall
National Park

Visit Virginia's Shenandoah National Park

If you plan to visit Washington, D.C. take time to travel to Shenandoah National Park. You won’t want to miss the staggering natural beauty of the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. In early November you might catch the last of the colorful, fall leaves. Check the foliage report here. If not, you’ll still see amazing mountain vistas, waterfalls, wildlife, and more.

Rockettes
Theater and Dance

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Radio City Music Hall is the home of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a famous variety show for all ages filled with holiday themes, dancing, music, impressive costumes, and special effects. The show stars a company of dancers called the Rockettes. If you'll be in New York City this December, get tickets to see the show or go on a behind-the-scenes tour. If not, catch a glimpse of the show online and see what all the excitement is about.

Navy Ships and flags
History

Remembering Pearl Harbor

On December 7, Americans recall the somber day in 1941 when the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii. On that day, Japan destroyed or damaged more than 300 American aircrafts, more than 20 ships, killed more than 2,200 people and 75 years later the events of December 7, 1941, are still remembered in this country and especially in Pearl Harbor. Over a million people visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Pearl Harbor each year to learn about what happened. Visitors take a ferry to the floating memorial of USS Arizona, one of the ships that sank during the attack. At the memorial, visitors walk through a white floating building designed by architect Alfred Preis, see an American flag attached to the mast of the sunken ship, and honor the 1,177 crewmen who died here.

sleigh ride
Music

Favorite Holiday Songs

Many popular holiday songs in America were originally from other countries. But some were written in the United States. "Jingle Bells", first published in 1857, is perhaps the most popular holiday song in America. The song originally was about teenagers enjoying a snowy sleigh ride before cars were invented. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie in 1934. The lyrics warn children to be on their best behavior so Santa will bring them presents on Christmas Eve. Be sure to listen to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Auld Lang Syne”, which consistently rank among the most popular holiday songs.

Volunteers
Volunteer

Volunteer with the American Red Cross

December is a great time to take part in volunteering. The American Red Cross brings help and hope to communities across the nation with a strong focus on health, and disaster relief. These opportunities are made possible by people like you who contribute their unique backgrounds, talents, and skills. Contact a local chapter to learn about volunteer opportunities in a location near you.

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