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What do you know about the festivals A-F below?

Read about all the festivals and tell another student what you remember from each one.

A) Halloween

Now a children's holiday, Halloween was originally a Celtic* festival for the dead, celebrated on the last day of the Celtic year, October 31.
One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. Naturally, those still living did not want to be possessed. So, on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily parade around the neighbourhood, in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.
The custom of 'trick-or-treating' (when children go from house to house on Halloween to get small presents) is thought to have originated with a ninth-century European custom called 'souling' where early Christians would walk from village to village begging for 'soul cakes', made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that prayer, even by strangers, could speed a soul's passage to heaven.

* Celts = ancient European people* Celts = ancient European people

B) Independence Day

Independence Day is the national holiday of the United States of America commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. At the time of the signing, the US consisted of 13 colonies under the rule of England's King George III. There was growing unrest in the colonies concerning the taxes that had to be paid to England. Consequently, King George sent extra troops to help control any rebellion. In April 1775 as the King's troops advanced on Concord, Massachusetts, Paul Revere sounded the alarm that 'The British are coming, the British are coming' as he rode his horse through the late night streets. The battle of Concord would mark the beginning of the war for Independence.
By June 1776 a committee was formed to compose a formal declaration of independence. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft which was presented to the Congress on June 28. And although the signing of the Declaration was not completed until August, the 4th of July has been accepted as the official anniversary of United States independence.
By the early 1800s the traditions of parades, picnics, and fireworks were established as the way to celebrate America's birthday. And although fireworks have been banned in most places because of their danger, most towns and cities usually have big firework displays for all to see and enjoy.

C) Diwali

Diwali or Deepawali is a Hindu festival of lights symbolising the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness. The word 'Deepawali' literally means rows of diyas (clay lamps). It is a family festival, celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Asvin (October-November).
This festival commemorates Lord Rama's return to his kingdom after completing a 14-year exile. Twinkling oil lamps or diyas light up every home and there are numerous firework displays. (Another view of the festival is that Deepawali is meant to celebrate the destruction of the arrogant tyrant Bali at the hands of Vishnu.) As part of this festive occasion, Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is worshipped in most Hindu homes. So, also, is the goddess Lakshmi, who is the symbol of wealth and prosperity. The occasion of Deepawali sees the spring-cleaning and white-washing of houses; decorative designs or 'rangolis' are painted on floors and walls. New clothes bought and family members and relatives gather together to offer prayers, distribute sweets and to light up their homes.

D) Carnival

The origins of Carnival are unclear, but most agree that it started as a pagan celebration in ancient Rome or Greece. Carnival balls were exported from Italy in the late nineteenth century and had their golden age in the 1930s. In Brazil, Carnival rules the country for four days a year, It happens at the peak of summer, attracting thousands of visitors from all corners of the world. 'Carnaval' (as spelled in Portuguese) changes dates every year but it usually happens some time in February or early March.
Carnival is supposed to be a time to 'forget or recall an old love affair, to celebrate new passion or search for new romantic experiences'. It's also a time to 'protest against corrupt politicians, to complain about poverty and give creative suggestions for ways to turn the country into a fair place to live'.
According to history the first Brazilian Carnival is said to have taken place in 1641. Each festival varies depending on the location, but most main attractions are religious ceremonies, performances by the samba schools or huge parades.

E) Guy Fawkes' Night

In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament* to kill the King, James I and the entire Parliament. The conspirators were angered because King James had been exiling Jesuits** from England. The plotters wanted to take power away from the king and return the country to the Catholic faith. However, in an attempt to protect a friend, one of the group members sent an anonymous letter warning him to stay away from the Parliament. The warning letter reached the King, and the conspirators were caught, tortured and executed. Guy Fawkes and his friends had rolled 36 barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament. These days, Guy Fawkes' Day is also known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire. The effigies are simply known as guys'. Preparations for Guy Fawkes' Day and Bonfire Night celebrations include making the 'guys'. In some parts of England, children keep up an old tradition by walking in the streets, carrying the 'guy' and begging passers-by for 'a penny for the guy'.
* Houses of Parliament = where Britain's laws get made and national affairs are discussed
** Jesuit = member of a Roman Catholic religious order

F) Valentine's Day

Every February, across :-: the country, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we - celebrate this holiday?
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II " decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young, single men. However, Valentine, opposing the so decree, continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine was discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
According to another legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl - who may have been his jailor's daughter - who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine', an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasise his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure.
For the questions below, choose your answers from the names of the festivals/celebrations from the reading. (Sometimes you can give more than one answer and some choices may be required more than once.)
Before you start highlight the key words in the questions in the left-hand column below. Then, skim the texts looking for expressions to match those key words (phrases which give the same information as the questions but in different words). Those for numbers 1 and 2 have been highlighted in the text.

Ask each other these question.

  1. What are the main festivals in your country? What are their origins?
  2. How do you celebrate them? Do you have a special routine? What food and drink do you have?
  3. What kinds of presents do you give?
Which festival/celebration(s)

involve giving presents? 1 ____

celebrates the triumph of 2 ____
good over evil?

involves changes in the home?   3 ______

take place in the first three   4 ______  5 ______
months of the year?

come from disagreements   6 ______  7 ______ 8 _____
with authority?

is celebrated n  9 ______
different places?

involve fireworks?  10 _____ 11 _____ 12 ____

involve begging?  13 ______  14 ______

came about partly because   15 ______
of anger over money?

involves a symbolic food?   16 ______

arose because of military    17 ______

came about partly because of   18 ______
an intercepted message?

have connection with love    19 ______  20 ______
and romance?

followed a formal political    21 ______

involved strange clothes?    22 ______

A Halloween

B Independence Day

C Diwali

D Carnival

E Guy Fawkes' Night

F Valentine's Day

Writing: My Country (Information sheet)

Your local tourist office has asked you to write an information sheet (about 250 words) for visitors to your country. The purpose is to inform foreigners about any culturally sensitive issues so that they avoid offending local people by mistake.
Discuss with other students possible topics for inclusion in your information sheet.
Make a list, for example: gestures, greetings, going to someone's house for dinner etc.

If you have trouble coming up with ideas, think about
a) times you have accidentally offended people when travelling abroad;
b) things that visitors to your country sometimes do that cause offence.

2 Choose three or four areas that are culturally sensitive to include in your information sheet. Make notes for points for inclusion under each heading.
  1. with people you don't know.
    Either a handshake or nothing
  2. men to male friends.
    Either a handshake or nothing
  3. men/women to female friends. Either a single kiss on the cheek or nothing.
  4. in business situations
    Usually a handshake will be appropriate in most contexts.

6 Look at the information sheet. Make sure you read and understand all the Dos and Don'ts. Plan the information sheet you are going to write.
Planning your information sheet
  1. What title will you give your information sheet so as to make it interesting and attractive to your audience?
  2. How many sections will you have in your information sheet and what headings will you use for each one?
  3. Will you need to use a more formal or informal style with the audience you are writing for?
  4. What is the purpose of your information sheet (e.g. to inform, warn and advise)? How will this affect the language you use? (Remember, you don't want to put visitors off coming to your country!)
  5. How will you introduce the topics you cover in each section? (Remember, you don't want to make your customs and values seem illogical to visitors.)
7 Write the first draft of your information sheet.
Show your first draft to another student for them to check by answering these questions.
Checking a first draft
  1. Does the general heading make you want to read the sheet?
  2. Is there a helpful introduction?
  3. Are the different paragraphs clear and complete? Does each paragraph have its own heading?
  4. Are linking words/expressions used in an appropriate way?
  5. Does the information sheet inform in a clear and readable way?
  6. Is the style appropriate for the target readers?

Discuss your partner's response to your information sheet. Listen to any suggestions as to how it might be improved. Read your information sheet again. Decide how you will change it.
Rewrite your information sheet.

@username - Your comments please

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