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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Flight Anniversary / A Question about American Celebrations / Bringing in the New Year - 2003-12-25

Broadcast: December 26, 2003



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a program in VOA Special English about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. On our show today, we report about some New Year’s celebrations to be held next week. And we answer a listener’s question about still another holiday Americans celebrate in December. But first –we tell about a special anniversary...the anniversary of flight.

Anniversary of Flight


December Seventeenth was the one-hundredth-anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first successful powered flight. That anniversary is being observed in several ways. Bob Cohen tells us about two of them.


The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum is perhaps the most visited museum in the world. The building is in Washington D-C, near the Capitol building. The museum displays aircraft important to the history of aviation.

More than nine-million people visit the Air and Space Museum each year. But the museum is not big enough to display all of the aircraft it has collected over the years.

As part of the observances of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight, the Smithsonian opened a huge new building in nearby Virginia. That building may solve the problem of where to display the museum’s collection.

The building is named the Steven Udvar-Hazy (OOD-var HA-zee) Center. Mister Udvar-Hazy came to the United States from Hungary. He was very successful in the American aviation industry. He gave sixty-five-million dollars to help build the new museum. He said this was a way for him to thank America for the chances for success that it provided him.

Although open to the public, the Udvar-Hazy Center is not yet finished. It will be able to hold about three-hundred aircraft. About eighty aircraft are now in the building. These include the SR-Seventy-One “Black Bird,” the fastest aircraft ever built. It has flown at more than three times the speed of sound.

On December seventeenth, exactly one-hundred years after the Wright Brothers first flew, a group of aviation experts tried to recreate their first flight. The attempt was made at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. This is the same place where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their famous flight.

However, the attempt to recreate the flight failed. The experts tried to fly a copy of the Wright Brothers’ famous aircraft. But the weather did not cooperate. The aircraft began to move but could not lift into the air. Event organizers said they did not feel disappointed by the failure. They said the Wright Brothers had failed three days before they were successful. They said they will try again.



Last week, we told about Hanukkah when we answered a question about celebrations from a listener in Nigeria. This week, we answer a similar question, but give a different answer.

Sajid Iqbal from Lahore, Pakistan asks about events or occasions that Americans celebrate. One of these starts December twenty-sixth. It is called Kwanzaa.

The word “Kwanzaa” is Swahili. It means first fruits of the harvest. The first Kwanzaa celebration began on the day after Christmas in nineteen-sixty-six. A small group of African-Americans in the western city of Los Angeles, California began the first seven-day celebration. The celebration was not religious. Its purpose was to honor black culture, especially the importance of the family.

Today, millions of African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. Families in Canada, Britain, France and Africa also celebrate it. The holiday continues from December twenty-sixth through January first. Kwanzaa does not replace Christmas. Most people who celebrate Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas.

Kwanzaa is a time for black families to discuss seven goals to live by all year. These are unity, personal independence, joint responsibility, cooperative econonics, purpose, creativity and faith.

On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa, family members gather to light a black, red or green candle in a special candle holder. Each day, the family discusses one of the goals. People may also get together for a party and enjoy a holiday meal.

College professor Maulana Karenga developed Kwanzaa. He said Kwanzaa’s goal of unity includes unity in the family, the local community, the nation and the African community around the world.

He also said that celebrating Kwanzaa will not solve the social problems of black people. But he said that honoring the goals of Kwanzaa will make people more creative and productive citizens.

New Year’s Traditions


The year two-thousand-four will begin next Thursday, January first. Many Americans are already planning to celebrate. Faith Lapidus tells us about some of their plans.


On Wednesday night, millions of Americans will dress in their best clothes and go out to celebrate the coming of the new year.

Some will go to private parties to eat, drink and dance. Others will go to a hotel or public eating place for dinner and dancing. Many such places have bands and singers to perform on New Year’s Eve. They play songs like this one.


Americans recognize the dangers of drinking alcohol and then driving a car. So hotels in many cities offer people a way to enjoy the party and stay safe. They urge people to stay in the hotel for the night. That way, the celebrators can drive home safely the next morning.

Some people take part in public celebrations known as First Night. People in the northeastern city of Boston created the First Night celebration more than twenty-five years ago. Such celebrations include art, puppets, magicians, storytellers and all kinds of music. Those who take part say First Night celebrations are for everyone. They say it gives people more to cheer about than just beginning the new year at midnight.

Whatever way Americans choose to celebrate the new year, one tradition is common. At midnight, everyone cheers and makes noise.


They shout out wishes for a happy and healthy new year. And they join in singing this traditional new year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne.”



This is Doug Johnson, wishing all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

Our program today was written by Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Paul Thompson was our producer. And our engineer was Eva Nenicka.