Monday, 8 May 2017

May Day Parade: A Unique Tradition in the Twin Cities

Similar in Spain, there are several festivals in May throughout the United States. Different states have their unique traditions and the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, have one of the coolest festivals around!

Minneapolis is located in the state of Minnesota, which is in the north-central part of the US.

On May Day, which is the first day of May, hundreds of people dress up in costumes and walk in the parade. The processions comment on current social and political issues. For example, this year, there were many processions about domestic politics, including the election of Donald Trump and immigration. 

This photo is from the 2016 parade. This puppet commemorates the death of Prince, a famous musician that was from Minnesota.

After the parade, there is a big ceremony called the Tree of Life ceremony. The ceremony consists of a story told with children, dancers, puppeteers, a live orchestra and four giant puppets who represent the Prairie, Sky, River, and Woods. The story is about welcoming warmer weather and celebrating the joy of no more winter!

This is one of the major puppets from the Tree of Life ceremony! 

These are the Prairie, Sky, River, and Woods puppets in the Tree of Life ceremony


1. Where is the May Day parade located?
2. What does the parade celebrate?
3. What is the main idea of the ceremony after the parade?
4. If you had to participate in the May Day parade, what would you dress up as?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Imperial vs. Metric System

Have you ever heard of pounds? Inches? Feet? Miles?

If so, you have heard of the imperial system! Americans, along with a few other countries in the world, use the imperial system to measure objects rather than the metric system. There is no real reason that we use this system other than tradition!

The map above illustrates the countries that use the imperial system and those that use the metric system. There are only three countries that use the imperial system.

A few examples of the imperial system are:

1 yard (yd) = 0.914 meters (m)

1 inch (in) = 2.54 centimeters (cm)
1 pound (lb) = 0.45 kilograms (km)

1 ounce (oz)  = 28.35 grams (g)
1 gallon (g) = 3.78 liters (l)
1 fluid ounce (oz) = 29.6 milliliters (ml)
Using the conversions above, can you answer the following questions?

How many yards are in 5 meters?

How many inches are in 10 meters?
How many kilograms are in 3 pounds?
How many ounces are in 500 grams?

Comprehension questions:

Why do Americans use the imperial system?

What are a few examples of imperial measurements?

Which countries use the imperial system?

Name three countries that use the metric system (other than Spain). 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Groundhog Day

America is a diverse country with a plethora of traditions. Groundhog Day is among the most widely celebrated, and strangest, customs.

What is Groundhog Day?

On February 2nd, Americans celebrate Groundhog Day, which is the day that we find out whether there will be six more weeks of winter or the early arrival of spring. It's not like normal when a weatherman gives the forecast. Rather, a groundhog, called Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from his burrow to forecast the weather.

Groundhog Day takes place in small town in Pennsylvania called Punxsutawney (punks-a-tone-y).

Punxsutawney Phil!

How does the Groundhog tell us the weather?

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges, then the spring season will arrive early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.

This photo illustrates organizers giving the forecast of Punxsutawney Phil.

How do we celebrate Groundhog Day?

Thousands of Americans watch the groundhog on TV with their family and friends. There are also social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and plays are performed.

If you want to learn more about this quirky tradition, you can watch the film Groundhog Day. Here is the link to the trailer:

Monday, 23 January 2017

Inauguration Day

This past Friday, the United States witnessed its 45th presidential inauguration. Although the president himself is controversial, the inauguration contains many traditions.

What is Inauguration Day? 

Inauguration Day marks the swearing-in of the incoming president. 

Thousands of people attend the Inauguration and fill the National Mall, which is the center of Washington D.C..

What Happens on Inauguration Day?

Before the president and vice-president are sworn-in, they drive to the Capitol together. Although they may not speak to each other during the ride, they carry out an important gesture that symbolizes a peaceful transfer of power. 

Once both elected officials arrive at the Capital, they are sworn in. After the vice-president is sworn in, the president-elect takes the Oath of Office administered by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Afterwards, the new president makes his inaugural speech.

After that, the president and vice-president attend a lunch hosted by senior Congressional officials.  

Once lunch is over, the president walks from the Capital to the White House, where he will be living and working for the next four years. 

After he arrives at the White House, a parade begins on Pennsylvania Avenue, which includes dancers, singers, military displays and floats. People from all over the country see and participate in the parade. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

An American New Year's Eve

While Christmas is around the corner, New Year's Eve is also a special night coming up! New Year's Eve is the last night of the year and ushers in the new year. Like in Spain, Americans have traditions that they closely follow.

In New York City, thousands of people gather in Times Square to watch a crystal ball drop at midnight. Even if you aren't in the Big Apple, millions of Americans tune into the event on their televisions.

This is crystal ball!

This is Times Square when the clock strikes midnight. The streets are packed and fireworks surround the square. 

After midnight, Americans sing the song Auld Lang Syne, which is an old Scottish song that has become an integral part of American culture. 

On New Year's Eve, most families attend parties with other family members and friends. They are out until very early in the morning! 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Holidays Far and Wide: A New Mexican Christmas

As all of you may know, the United States is a huge country with various cultures and traditions. New Mexico, where I am from, is among one of the most unique states because we have specific Christmas traditions that are not seen anywhere else.

New Mexican Christmases are a mixture of Hispanic, Native American and American-European customs. 

New Mexicans decorate their houses and streets with luminarias, which are lanterns that are created with placing candles in scoops (piles) of sand in paper bags. Luminarias are traditionally from Mexico. 

In addition to decorating homes, city governments and businesses decorate public spaces, such as parks, shopping districts and churches. Luminarias are lit for a few weeks in December, so families walk around at night to enjoy them. 

From Christmas Day (December 25th) until New Years Day (January 1st), many people watch Native American dances. There are dozens of different Native American tribes in New Mexico and each has their own distinct culture.

The following link are pictures from the Matachine Dances at Ohkay Owingeh, which is also known as San Juan Pueblo (like here)! These dances are held on Christmas day.

Christmases in the United States are very different. It's not green pine trees and Santa Claus for everyone!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Unique Thanksgiving Foods

While Thanksgiving is a traditional holiday in the United States, people are crafting alternative foods.

Among some of the strangest, a handful of residents from Louisiana (a Southern state that borders Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico) make Coke Salad. The bundt-like cake is made of cherries, crushed pineapple, cream cheese, milk, cherry Jell-O, coca-cola, and chopped pecans.

coke salad

In 2004, Jones Soda Company released a series of Thanksgiving-themed sodas--Green Bean Casserole Soda, Mashed Potato and Butter Soda, Cranberry Soda, and Turkey & Gravy Soda. None of these are my cup of team, or they don't suit my tastes.

Turkey & Gravy Soda et al.

In Idaho, a Western state straddled between Washington and Montana, a small sushi restaurant has crafted a popular sushi roll. At Bonsai Bistro, chefs reuse leftover Thanksgiving food to make the "Left Over Roll," which is comprised of smoked turkey breast, stuffing, dried cranberries, green beans, cream cheese, tempura, cranberry wasabi, red wine soy demi-glace.

The Left Over Roll

Thanksgiving is generally a very traditional holiday, but more and more Americans are experimenting with different types of food. Because American families come from all over the world and have unique backgrounds, we are always willing to try something different!