Friday, 13 December 2013

Christmas Almost Didn't Come

       Christmas is a major holiday in the U.S., celebrated in many different ways. The season begins the day after Thanksgiving and is enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike. But in the beginning, in the early 1600s, there wasn’t any Christmas celebration at all!
The Pilgrims in Massachusetts in the early 17th Century did not originally celebrate Christmas. They were in America to build a new society based on the Bible and they knew there was nothing in the Bible to say  December was  when Christ was born. They knew Christmas had roots in pagan winter solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia. They disapproved of the feasting and parties at Christmas.
         The General Court of Massachusetts made celebrating Christmas punishable by law in  1659. The law stated: “Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or the like, either by forebearing labor, feasting, or any other way upon such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for each offense five shillings as a fine to the country. "[A fine would be imposed if anyone did not work, or held a feast, or celebrated in any way, Christmas.]
          Even after the law was repealed in 1681, New Englanders were slow to accept Christmas. Giving gifts and parties and even decorations were considered to be pagan customs. As late as 1870, Boston schools held classes on Christmas Day!
          The same wasn’t true in Virginia. Jamestown was settled in 1607, before the Pilgrims, by people who hoped to get rich. They had no principles opposed to Christmas revels. But they didn't do much celebrating. For four years, they starved. There was no Christmas feast; they were lucky if there was food at all.
          Then, in 1611, they started to grow a new tobacco plant. It wasn’t the plant the local Indians grew. It came from a strain grown in the Spanish colonies of Trinidad and South America. How John Rolfe got the seeds he brought to Jamestown is a mystery—there was a death penalty for anyone who sold such seeds to a non-Spaniard! Rolfe crossed his Spanish seeds with the local tobacco and produced a plant well-adapted to local conditions. At the same time, it was more pleasing to European taste and had a higher nicotine content than the native tobacco. The first shipment went to England in 1614. Their new kind of tobacco became their gold.
           With life secure, merriment and Christmas celebration quickly followed. Parties and festivities just like they had enjoyed back in England enlivened the Virginia Christmas season.

U.S. Christmas Tradition

         The Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving.
         Some people decorate their houses with lights. Most people put a Christmas wreath on their doors or windows.
Christmas trees, natural and artificial, are decorated in homes across the United States between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (In Maine, many cut their own trees at farms that grow them just for Christmas.)
Colorfully wrapped presents are placed around the tree to be opened on Christmas morning.
In some places, groups go from house to house singing Christmas carols.  This tradition goes back to the early 1800s, in England, and combines holiday visiting with songs to celebrate Christmas. Often singers are given something warm to eat or drink before they go on to the next house.
On Christmas Eve, children hope that Santa Claus will visit their homes. They hang Christmas stockings for him to fill. They may put a plate of cookies and some milk or juice for him to have a snack as a thank you for their presents.
Churches often have Christmas pageants. Kids play the roles in the Christmas story: Mary and Joseph looking for shelter, the angels visiting the shepherds, and the three kings traveling to Bethlehem.
Christians often go to a midnight church service; there are also services on Christmas morning. After church,  presents are opened under the Christmas tree. Families usually gather for a large meal: traditional foods are turkey, ham or roast beef, with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, cranberries, carrots, fruit salads, and desserts like fruit cake or apple or pecan pie.
There are also traditions unique to regions in the United States. In the Southwest, luminarias guide the Christ child to a person’s home, and Pastorela plays, a combination of reverence and satire, are commonly performed. In Polish communities, people set their dinner table with two extra places for Mary and the Christ Child in case they should knock at the door to ask for shelter. Throughout the country, immigrant customs are added to local tradition for a diverse celebration.
Some people still celebrate the twelve days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, and comes down the day after Epiphany (Kings’ Day). This is not widespread, however. For most people in the United States, Christmas Day is the end of the Christmas season.
        Attention then turns to celebration of the New Year, with multiple reviews of the year that is ending.

English Christmas Language

Christmas has its own vocabulary. It is based on the customs people in the United States (and the other English-speaking countries) follow at this time of year. I found another of the Mrs. Haquet interactive books for practice of the language of Christmas. At the back, there are a couple of Christmas songs that may sound familiar to you!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Boston Tea Party: December 1773

On December 16, 1773, a group of American colonists in Boston, Massachusetts gathered to perform an act of civil disobedience. It is now called the Boston Tea Party.

Earlier in that year, the British Parliament, which then governed the English colonies in America, passed a law it thought would stop protests there. Many taxes the colonists did not like had been repealed, but the new law continued a tax on tea. The law gave a monopoly on tea sales in the colonies to the British East India Company. This company was failing. It had a lot of unsold tea. A monopoly would let it sell the tea at a lower price because it would be the only place to buy tea.

The British government thought that the low cost of tea for the Americans would make them forget about the tax. The British East India Company owed money to the British government and could pay the money back. The government would also earn revenues from the tax. Everyone should be happy.

(Today, we would call this a government “bailout” of the privately owned East India Company.)

The colonists didn’t see why they should be happy. The new law would hurt local merchants who would not be able to buy and sell tea. Also, the tax was still being charged, and the colonists had vowed not to allow imports of taxed goods until the tax was repealed. The colonists tried to talk to the Massachusetts colonial governor about this on December 16, 1773. The governor said he would meet them, but when they arrived at the meeting, the governor had gone away to his house in the country!

There were three ships in Boston Harbor loaded with British tea, surrounded by British war ships. The colonists dressed up as Mohawk Indians (although no one was fooled; the disguises were not very good) and went to the harbor that same day. They divided into three groups and boarded each of the ships. They politely asked the captains for the keys to the cargo hold. There was no resistance. They then began tossing boxes of tea overboard into the harbor. When they were done, they left. It was very orderly.

They destroyed over 92,000 pounds of tea (that's around 42,000 kilograms of tea floating in Boston Harbor!). The British responded to this action by the colonists with a law that took away their right to govern themselves. The colonists then formed illegal provincial assemblies. The British sent an invasion force from England to restore order. In 1775, colonists and British fought at the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The American Revolution had begun.

Some of the words in this article are defined in Quizlet at
The name of the glossary is: )Boston Tea Party.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Vocabulary about Kennedy

Many words that might be new to you are similar to Spanish words that mean the same thing. The following words might be more "foreign":

Assassinate: (v.) planned murder of a prominent person, usually someone with political power.
Caisson: (n.) a wagon with two wheels, ordinarily used for artillery ammunition
Flaws: (n.) defects, imperfections, faults
inaugural: (adj.) marking the beginning of something (in this case, the speech a president gives upon taking office).
Suggest: (v.) to hint, to give an idea of, to present a possibility.
Visionary: (n.) a dreamer, a person who has an ideal of what should be.
Vulnerable: (adj.) weak, unprotected.

Fifty Years Since President John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated

This Friday, many in the United States will take time to remember John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.
        On Friday, November 22, 1963, exactly 50 years ago, Kennedy was assassinated  in Dallas, Texas, by Lee Harvey Oswald. On the Sunday after the assassination, November 25, his flag-draped coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson  to the U.S. Capital Building to lie in state. Throughout the day and night, hundreds of thousands of people lined up to view the casket. Monday, November 26, the day of the funeral, was a national day of mourning.
        The world could watch the funeral procession on television because the Telstar communication satellite launch only the year before had made such viewing possible.

The President and Mrs. Kennedy and Texas Governor
John Conally in Dallas just before the assassination
             We can never know how history might have changed if Kennedy had lived.
             But we can remember and honor what he did while he was alive.
             He was a veteran of World War II. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. When his ship, a patrol torpedo boat, was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer, he saved his crew and led them to safety.
             He was a writer. His 1955 book “Profiles in Courage” won a Pulitzer Prize for history. In it, he examined political courage in a series of essays about eight U.S. Senators whom Kennedy felt had shown great courage under enormous pressure from their parties and their constituents.
             He was a visionary. When he assumed office in January 1961, the Cold War cast the dark shadow of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States across the world. The U.S.S.R. had launched a space satellite. The U.S. had no such technology. People in the U.S. felt vulnerable  to Russia’s superiority. Kennedy called for a commitment to space research. He convinced Congress to fund it.  Kennedy  didn’t live to see Neil Armstrong step onto the moon’s surface, but it would not have happened without him.
              He pushed for equal rights for African Americans. In the 1960s, Barak Obama might not have been able to vote if he lived in Louisiana! (His parents would not have been legally able to marry in some southern states because his father was black and his mother, white.) Due to Kennedy's work, in 1965 his successor, Lyndon Johnson, was able to convince Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, a law that enforced the rights of African Americans and others to vote.
Portrait of JFK by
Aaron Shikler
              He was the first Catholic to be elected President of the United States. Today, this doesn’t seem very noteworthy, but in 1960, there were many people who feared that a Catholic president would follow instructions from the Pope, instead of listening to the people of the U.S.  He was the first president born after 1900, and also the youngest person ever elected to the U.S. presidency: he was 44 when the 1960 election happened.
              Kennedy was intelligent, rich, handsome and charming, but  he had many flaws. Despite his faults, he believed in the ideals of his country and tried, during his life, to bring those ideals closer to reality.
              A basic ideal he held was stated by another president, Abraham Lincoln: the United States is a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people." President Kennedy asked his fellow citizens in his inaugural speech to embrace that ideal  when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.” In other words, the country is what its citizens make it. A president can lead them in that effort, but he himself can do nothing without their support.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Thanksgiving video has some words in it that you may not know. Some of them, like "pilgrim," are not words that we use a lot in ordinary conversation. Others, like "harbor" and "fisherman" are terms we may use and hear often. If you want to look at words that the video uses, go to the Quizlet link here:

and check them out.


Here you are the PADLETS  that our students from 2A have made to recommend a horror film. Have a look at  them because they are really great.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Hi students,

Here you are some vocabulary cards about Halloween that Susan has made for you. I hope you enjoy them and learn new words. They are very useful for this "terrifying week".

Click HERE.

Monday, 28 October 2013


Click here to learn more things about Halloween.

 Have a look at this interesting digital book about Halloween.
You will learn new vocabulary, practise place prepositions ... all in a TERRIFIC ATMOSPHERE!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Let me tell you a bit about myself...

Sylvia has been kind enough to introduce me. Now we think it proper for me to tell you something about who I am.

I come from Maine, in New England, a region of the United States that borders Canada. That is where I now live. I went to high school in Virginia, and began college in New York state. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Southern Maine, and my law degree at the University of Maine School of Law.

Until coming to Spain as a language and culture assistant this year, I worked for different law firms, mostly in Mexico, translating legal documents like contracts from Spanish into English. (Never from English into Spanish—my Spanish is not that good!)

Off and on, I have also written articles for different newspapers and magazines, both in the United States and in Mexico.

In addition to New York state and Virginia, I have lived in Beeville and El Paso, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Mexico City, Mexico; Mérida, Yucatán; Cozumel, Quintana Roo (Mexico); Chihuahua, Chih. (Mexico), and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I love to travel and have visited several countries now. Mostly I go to warm places, or places that are warm at the time I am there. I did once go to South Georgia Island, which is part of Antarctica—but it was not very cold when I visited, because it was the end of summer in the southern hemisphere.

I enjoy the sports of hiking and horseback riding, sailing and kayaking. I like to cook and do photography.  I read a lot, more fiction than non-fiction.

I am very happy to be in San Juan del Puerto. I feel very lucky to be working with such a diverse and talented faculty and students who have so much potential. I hope to be useful to the bilingual program, and I know I will learn a great deal from the people I am working with! My thanks to everyone for your welcome and kindness.

Monday, 14 October 2013


Welcome to our new school year 2013/14. Our bilingual family is growing and this year we are bilingual in the following subjects:
1 ESO - Maths and Music
2 ESO - Social Studies and Music
3 ESO- Maths and Physics/chemistry

As you know, we have a new language assisstant from the USA Susan Lowery. Soon you will know more things about her.
Remember to visit our blog to read about bilinguism in our school.
See you soon.