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Saint Valentine's Day
February 14

Origin
The day American's celebrate as Valentine's Day was originally a Roman festival called Lupercalia. The festival was celebrated on February 14th, the day on which birds were said to begin mating. It was a popular custom during the celebration for each young man to draw the name of a young woman from a box. The two became "sweethearts" for the duration of Lupercalia.

It wasn't until much later that the holiday was changed to honor two Christian saints, both of whom were named Valentine.

Today
Modern Valentine's Day is a time for people to express love to sweethearts, family and friends.

Easter
A Sunday between March 22nd and April 25

Origin
An annual church celebration commemorating Christ's Resurrection, Easter, is the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on Sunday, Easter is observed one week later. Thus, Easter may fall anytime between March 22 and April 25th. Easter is the oldest and most significant Christian holiday, because it celebrates the supreme message of Christianity-the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians worldwide renew their faith at this time.

Today
For many Christians, the season begins with Lent, the 45-day period prior to Easter, beginning with Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of self denial and examination, often accompanied by fasting.

Mother's Day
The second Sunday in May

Origin
Mother's Day is a holiday founded through the efforts of Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia to honor of motherhood in the U.S.

Today
On this day each year most people express their love for their mother.

Father's Day
The third Sunday in June

Origin
Father's day is holiday founded through the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. She believed her father, who raised his six children solely, deserved some recognition. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson made it an official holiday, balancing the days of recognition given to both mothers and fathers.

Today
Now, Father's Day is celebrated in more than 20 foreign countries.

Halloween, also called All Hallow's Eve
The evening of October 31

Origin
In pre-Christian times, the Celts celebrated the summer's end with a ceremony to thank and honor the sun. Their Druid priests also lit bonfires and performed magic rites to ward off the unfriendly witches, ghosts and other spirits that were believed to be roaming the Earth. Later, the Roman Harvest Festival, with its gifts of nuts and apples, merged with the October 31 tradition of the Celts.

During the Middle Ages, animal costumes and frightening masks were worn to ward off the evil spirits of darkness on the evening of All Hallow's or All Saints Day. This day was dedicated to all Christian martyrs and saints who had died.

Today
Even though Christianity replaced Druid and Roman religions, many of the early customs remained and are still practiced. Today, it is with a sense of fun, and sometime mischief, that fantasy costumes are worn.

Thanksgiving Day
The fourth Thursday in November

Origin
The first Thanksgiving was observed in 1621 by the remaining members of the Plymouth, Massachusetts colony who had come to England on the Mayflower. The 60 who had survived the hard winter invited Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag Indians (with whom they negotiated a treaty) to share their first harvest.

Today
Thanksgving has been a regularly observed by most Americans since President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday in 1863. It is time when families gather to give thanks and praise to God for the mercies and blessings of the year past.

Christmas Eve and Day
December 24 and 25

Origin
Christmas is the most widely celebrated birthday in the Western World. It recalls the birth of Christ.

Today
Americans, with their many diverse heritages, celebrate the holiday in many ways. Christians give to family, loved ones, friends the hungry and homeless. They all experience special joy in the act of giving.

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