On January first, Americans may relax at home or visit friends, relatives, and neighbors. New Year’s Day get-togethers are often informal, but generally there is plenty to eat and drink as loved ones and friends wish each other the best for the year ahead.
Many families and friends watch television together enjoying the Tournament of Roses Parade, which precedes the Rose Bowl football game—both held in Pasadena, California.
The parade was started in 1890, when Professor Charles F. Holder
suggested to the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club that they sponsor a parade to showcase the winter beauty and sunshine of the area. The parade was to be “an artistic celebration of the ripening of the oranges” at the beginning of the year. The first parade consisted of decorated, horse-drawn carriages. Motorized floats were added a few years later, and prizes were given for the most beautiful floats.
The event grew, and in 1895 the Tournament of Roses Association was formed to oversee the festivities. Soon, athletic competitions became part of the day’s events, along with an ostrich race, and once, a race between a camel and an elephant, in which the elephant won!
To enhance the event and increase public interest, a collegiate football game was added in 1902, with Stanford University playing against the University of Michigan. Today, the New
Year’s Day Rose Bowl game, featuring the two top college football teams in the nation is, for many Americans, the highlight of New Year’s Day.
From year to year, the parade of floats grew longer, and now the procession takes over 2 1/2 hours to travel the 5 1/2-mile parade route through the streets of Pasadena, California. The flower decorations also grew more elaborate. Today the floats include high – tech animation, and every inch of the float must be covered with flowers or other natural plant material.
The theme of the Tournament of Roses varies from year to year, and the parade now includes thousands of participants in marching bands, on horseback, and on the floats. City officials and celebrities ride in the cars pulling the floats, and a celebrity is chosen to be the grand marshal. The queen of the tournament, along with her court, rides on a special float, which is always the most elaborate, being
made from more than 250,000 flowers. Prizes are still given for the best, most beautiful floats.
Thousands of spectators line the parade route, arriving early in the morning or camping out overnight in order to secure the best spot for viewing the parade, which begins at 8 a. m. Spectators and participants alike enjoy the pageantry associated with the occasion. Preparation for next year’s Tournament of Roses begins on January 2.
Watching football games and parades is not the only tradition on New Year’s Day. Americans, like people in many countries, also promise to better themselves in the new year. Some Americans even write down their New Year’s resolutions—promises to themselves for improvement in the coming year.
celebrate(ing): v. to observe (recognize) a holiday or other special day with ceremonies, festivities, respect, or rejoicing
masquerade ball: n. a dance or social gathering of
people who are wearing masks or coverings over their
eyes or face so as not to be recognized
festivity (ies): n. a joyous celebration or party
live: adj. not pre-recorded; broadcast during the actual
stroke of midnight: n. 12:00 a. m. exactly; when the clock shows or chimes 12:00 a. m. confetti: n. small bits of colored paper thrown into the air to mark a celebration
reveler(s) : n. a person who is celebrating at a party or other festivity
get-together(s): n. an informal party or meeting partygoer(s): n. a person who attends a party herald (ing): v. to welcome or announce, often with ceremony, respect, or celebration
street party: n. phrase, a celebration held in the street(s) by a neighborhood or community alcohol-free: adj. an event in which no alcoholic beverages are sold or allowed
ring in the new year: v. an expression that means to
celebrate and welcome the new year
tournament: n. a contest involving a number of
parade: n. a public procession or display of people, animals, and/or things moving in a single line
Rose Bowl: n. phrase. a special tournament or final championship competition held each year in Pasadena, California between competing American university football (American style) teams sponsor: v. to provide financial or official support showcase: v. to display prominently in order to show the positive features
float(s): n. a platform carrying a display, usually pulled
by a vehicle in parades
oversee: v. to direct, supervise, or manage
enhance: v. to make greater, more beautiful, or to
increase in value
collegiate: adj. referring to college or university elaborate: adj. complex, detailed, carried out with care celebrity (ies): n. a well-known or famous person spectator(s): n. a person who watches an event but does not actively participate
camp(ing) out: v. to wait in line a very long time, even overnight, for an event or to buy a ticket; people bring sleeping bags, food, drinks, extra clothes, music, books, etc., to keep them comfortable while they wait in line pageantry: n. formal parades and plays related to an event
his unit combines
George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s. The federal holiday is formally called “Washington’s Birthday” and is celebrated on the third Monday in February. However, we have titled this unit “Presidents’ Day” since a common practice is to celebrate the birthdays of both presidents on this day. Some people, in fact, think the day celebrates all the American presidents.
The birthday of George Washington has been a legal federal holiday since 1885, and was originally celebrated on February 22. There was no federal holiday for Abraham Lincoln, but many individual states celebrated Lincoln’s birthday on February 12. In some states, both February 12 and February 22 were declared holidays to commemorate the two presidents.
In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Act that fixed Monday as the official day to observe legal federal holidays, including Washington’s Birthday. At this time, since many people assumed that the new date was meant to combine the two presidents’ birthdays, media sources and advertisers began calling the day “Presidents’ Day.” Now, printed calendars and date books indicate the day as “Presidents’ Day,” and retail stores hold huge “Presidents’ Day Sales.”
Despite the confusion surrounding the holiday, the third Monday
in February is the day on which Americans are reminded of the influence of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on the growth and history of the nation. As a legal holiday, federal and many state and local government offices are closed.
The two following sections discuss the lives and legacies of George Washington, the first president of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States.