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Traditions

Thanksgiving

Each November, Americans gather to celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving to commemorate the celebratory dinner the early colonists shared with Native Americans in 1621. The Native Americans had helped the colonists survive their first harsh winter in their new land and this feast was intended as an expression of gratitude and to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.

Today, Americans use the occasion to visit friends and family members and to give thanks for the blessings of liberty.  Turkey is the traditional main course.  Approximately 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed in the United States each Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.

Baseball

Baseball is considered the “national pastime” of the United States.  On the professional, amateur, and youth levels, it is popular in North America, Central America, parts of South America, parts of the Caribbean, and East Asia. The modern version of the game developed in North America beginning in the eighteenth century. The consensus of historians is that it evolved from earlier bat-and-ball games, such as rounders, brought to the continent by British and Irish immigrants. By the late nineteenth century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. The game is sometimes referred to as hardball in contrast to the very similar game of softball.

Baseball is a sport played between two teams usually of nine players each. It is a bat-and-ball game in which a pitcher throws (pitches) a hard, fist-sized, leather-covered ball toward a batter on the opposing team. The batter attempts to hit the baseball with a tapered cylindrical bat.  A team scores runs only when batting, by advancing its players—primarily via hits—counterclockwise past a series of four markers called bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot square, or "diamond." The game, played without time restriction, is structured around nine segments called innings. In each inning, both teams are given the opportunity to bat and score runs; a team's half-inning ends when three outs are recorded against that team.

 

 

Fenway Park, Boston Massachusetts

 

 

Baseball is very popular in East Asia and the Americas, although in South America its popularity is mainly limited to the northern portion of the continent. In The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela, Nicaragua, South Korea, and Taiwan, it is one of the most popular sports. The United States is the birthplace of baseball, where it has long been regarded as more than just a "major sport"; for many decades, it has been popularly referred to as the "national pastime."

Baseball has often been a barometer of the fabled American "melting pot", as immigrants from different regions have tried to "make good" in various areas including sports. In the 19th century, baseball was populated with many players of Irish or German extraction. A number of Native Americans had successful careers especially in the early 1900s. Italians and Poles appeared on many rosters during the 1920s and 1930s. Black Americans came on strong starting in the late 1940s after the barriers had been lifted, and continue to form a significant contingent. By the 1960s, Hispanics had started to make the scene, and had become a dominant force by the 1990s. In the 21st century, East Asians have been appearing in increasing numbers

 

Folklore

Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan is a fictional, larger-than-life folk hero who embodies frontier vitality. He is a symbol of might, the willingness to work hard, and the resolve to overcome all obstacles. Paul Bunyan is part of the western tall tale literature, which often populates the landscape with beings of gigantic proportions. Paul Bunyan, a lumberjack, and his companion Babe the Blue Ox take on mosquitoes of tremendous proportions, rainstorms that last for months, and natural obstructions like mountains ranges in their stride. He was popularized by newspapermen across the country in 1910 and has been a part of the American culture ever since.  The photo below was taken at an amusement park in Minnesota.

 

Johnny Appleseed

 Born John Chapman (September 26, 1774–March 18, 1845) in Massachusetts, Johnny Appleseed was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced the apple to large parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the U.S. Midwest. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways and his leadership in conservation.

The popular image of Johnny Appleseed had him spreading apple seeds randomly, everywhere he went. In fact, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. Because of the poor transportation that existed in the interior in those days, apples were a practical necessity in the early settlers’ diets. 

His love for his neighbor made him accepted as a peacemaker between the Indians and the settlers.  His path through the East and Midwest is today dotted with many monuments to his memory, and the legend of Johnny Appleseed remains a story of one individual living in harmony with nature and his fellow man.

 

John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man

An African American man named John Henry was the hero of former slaves and the people who built the railroads.  He was known for his strength in the face of adversity and his willingness to take on all challenges.

Railroad companies employed thousands of workers to create the smooth, flat pathways required by trains to traverse the continental United States in the last half of the 19th Century.  John Henry was perhaps the most famous.  He was born a slave in the southern United States and became a free man as a result of America’s Civil War.

Folk Heroes: John Henry

The best known story surrounding John Henry was his legendary duel with a steam-powered drill in order to prove whether man or machine was more productive in laying down railroad track.  John Henry eventually won the exhausting contest, but immediately died thereafter, having sacrificed his life to prove that, indeed, men are better than machines.

Confirming details of John Henry’s life is impossible because no one knows for sure if he really lived. However, the legend of John Henry is based, in part, on real events.  Many people say he represents the spirit of growth and determination in the United States during the latter half of the 19th Century.

 

 

 

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Updated: 20 May 2008

Source: U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS

 


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