of Americans will celebrate Christmas on December twenty-fifth. It is
the most widely celebrated religious holiday in the United States. For
the past few weeks, Americans have been preparing for Christmas. I'm
Bob Doughty. Shirley Griffith and Ray Freeman tell us about American
Christmas traditions and music on the VOA Special English program THIS
(MUSIC: "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," the Canadian Brass)
have been buying gifts to give to family members and friends. They have
been filling homes and stores with evergreen trees and bright, colored
lights. They have been going to parties and preparing special Christmas
foods. Many people think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the
year. Johnny Mathis thinks so, too.
(MUSIC: "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year")
Christians will go to church the night before the holiday or on
Christmas Day. They will celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus
Christ. Christian ministers will speak about the need for peace and
understanding in the world. This is the spiritual message of Christmas.
Church services will include traditional religious songs for the
One of the most popular is this one, "Silent Night." Here it is sung by Joan Baez.
other Americans will celebrate Christmas as an important, but
non-religious, holiday. To all, however, it is a special day of family,
food, and exchanging gifts.
Christmas is probably the most
special day of the year for children. One thing that makes it special
is the popular tradition of Santa Claus.
believe that Santa Claus is a fat, kind, old man in a red suit with
white fur. They believe that -- on the night before Christmas -- he
travels through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. He enters each
house from the top by sliding down the hole in the fireplace. He leaves
gifts for the children under the Christmas tree.
Here, Bruce Springsteen sings about Santa Claus.
(MUSIC: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town")
Americans spend a lot of time and money buying Christmas presents.
people object to all this spending. They say it is not the real meaning
of Christmas. So, they celebrate in other ways. For example, they make
Christmas presents, instead of buying them. Or they volunteer to help
serve meals to people who have no homes. Or they give money to
organizations that help poor people in the United States and around the
Home and family are the center of the
Christmas holiday. For many people, the most enjoyable tradition is
buying a Christmas tree and decorating it with lights and beautiful
objects. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, people gather around
the tree to open their presents.
Another important Christmas
tradition involves food. Families prepare many kinds of holiday foods,
especially sweets. They eat these foods on the night before Christmas
and on Christmas day.
For many people, Christmas means traveling
long distances to be with their families. Peabo Bryson and Roberta
Flack sing about this holiday tradition.
(MUSIC: "I'll Be Home for Christmas")
Christmas tradition is to go caroling. A group of people walks along
the street. At each house, they stop and sing a Christmas song, called
a carol. Student groups also sing carols at schools and shopping
centers. Let us listen to the choir of Trinity Church in Boston sing
"Carol of the Bells."
everyone in the United States celebrates Christmas. Members of the
Jewish and Muslim religions, for example, generally do not. Jewish
people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah. And some black Americans
observe another holiday, Kwanzaa. Yet many Americans do take part in
some of the traditional performances of the season.
One of the
most popular is a story told in dance: "The Nutcracker" ballet. The
music was written by Russian composer Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky in
The ballet is about a
young girl named Clara. Clara is celebrating Christmas with her family
and friends. One of her Christmas presents is a little device to open
nuts -- a nutcracker. It is shaped like a toy soldier. She dreams that
the nutcracker comes to life as a good-looking prince.
dance groups in many American cities perform the ballet at this time of
year. They often use students from local ballet schools to dance the
part of Clara and the other children in the story. This gives parents a
chance to see their children perform.
leave you with "The Waltz of the Flowers" from "The Nutcracker." It is
played by the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by Eugene Ormandy.
Today's program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced and directed by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.
I'm Ray Freeman. Join us again next week for another report about life
in the United States on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.