It's November 1, and you just survived another Halloween. Now you've got nearly a whole month of down time before the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday road becomes almost too crowded to enjoy. Not so fast. November holidays are for more than just eating turkey and watching football teams from cities that begin with capital D.
Dia de los Muertos: November 1
Halloween, it must be remembered, is actually All Hallow's Eve, which means there is a pretty important day that follows it. South of the border that day is celebrated as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. While many Americans view this day as merely a Hispanic version of Halloween, that is a definite misconception.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday dedicated to commemorating family members who have lived and died. In Mexico, this November holiday is actually spread over the course of two days. November 1 is typically set aside for the remembrance of children, while November 2 is a day to celebrate the lives of adults who have died. A normal method of observing these remembrances is to hold the equivalent of a picnic at the gravesites of those families who have passed to the other side. Common foods eaten at this time include sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto, or "Bread of the Dead." Family members also often engage in the practice of offering presents on an altar for the dead.
Among the items that might be present on these Dia de los Muertos altars would be food or drink enjoyed by the deceased. Once the spirits of these people have taken advantage of this opportunity, the living members of the family will usually partake of the offering. One of the traditions of this deeply spiritual holiday is the expectation that each family member makes some kind of offering. Not to do so would be to risk bringing bad luck upon oneself.
Veterans Day falls on the Monday closest to November 11. November 11 used to be celebrated as Armistice Day in recognition of the signing of ending World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
In 1954 the name was officially changed to Veterans Day in order to commemorate all veterans who had served in the US military. In 1968, the holiday was further amended so that it would be celebrated on the fourth Monday in October, but ten years later it was changed again so that it would still take place on a Monday to allow for three-day weekends, but the Monday would be the one closest to the highly symbolic original date observing the end of World War I.
Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day, but differs from that May holiday by virtue of the fact that Memorial Day is meant to commemorate those who have given their lives in service to the country, whereas Veterans Day recognizes the contributions of all who have served honorably in the military. Traditional celebrations include parades and honor guard ceremonies.
While Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, began as a remembrance of a feast shared by Pilgrims and Native Americans, it is now mostly devoted to sharing time with the family. The day begins with millions tuning in on TV to watch the thousands lining the parade routes in New York City for the beloved Macy's Thanksgiving Day, which began in 1924. The enormous helium balloons shaped like pop culture icons, singing and dancing appearances by Broadway stars and the march of high school bands from across the nation make the Thanksgiving holiday almost incomplete without at least having the parade on while preparing the feast.
The most important tradition of the holiday is Thanksgiving food, dominated by such staples as turkey, dressing and cranberries. After eating too much at the table, the typical American family then retires to the living room to watch football games. More athletic families have been known to hold impromptu football games in their backyards.
In recent years, a new tradition has arisen on Thanksgiving. While many celebrate with stuffing their faces or watching football, more and more are hitting the road to take in the latest Hollywood blockbuster. In the past, movies rarely opened on Thanksgiving itself, but rather on the Friday following the holiday because people rarely left their family to take in a movie. Today, however, several high profile blockbusters have opened on turkey day.
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In the United States, the Sadie Hawkins Dance is an event usually sponsored by a high school or middle school, for which the girls ask the boys to attend the dance with them. The idea is wildly popular for girls who enjoy taking the initiative, rather than waiting around to be asked to a dance.
Most people are aware of the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant as political symbols, but have you ever wondered how these particular animals came to be associated with their respective parties?