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The New Year: Traditions & Resolutions
@The Wednesday English Conversation Club
Bethesda Library, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

Let us get started…
From 31 December 2007 to 1 January 2008, throughout the United States, the New Year is a time to look back over the past. The past is full of traditions. The New Year is also a time to look the future and resolve the changes we want or need to make in our lives. The future is full of good resolutions.

New Year

Background:
In the American South, rich or poor, black or white, people start the New Year with food once eaten only by slaves: black-eyed peas! The meal of peas (legumes) attempts to trick the devil into thinking you are too lowly to attract bad luck. The traditional saying is:
"Eat poor this day; eat rich the rest of the year!" We have been eating black-eyed peas in America since 1674.

In the American West, another New Year's Day tradition is the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California. The beautiful "Tournament of Roses" floral parade, before the game, started in 1886.

In New York City, the most famous tradition is the dropping of the New Year ball in Times Square at 11:59 P.M., every New Year's Eve, on the 31st of December. Thousands gather to watch the ball make its one-minute descent, arriving exactly at midnight. The tradition began in 1907. The original ball was made of iron and wood. The current ball is made of Waterford Crystal from Ireland, weighs 1,070 pounds, and is six feet in diameter. People spend this minute with their closest friends and resolve to improve themselves. A resolution is a promise you make to yourself.

New Year

Over to you:
What has been your New Year experience in your home country? In the U.S.?

In pairs for 5 minutes, ask, listen, and answer these questions:
" Where were you on the night of 31 December 2007 at 11:59 P.M.?
" What did you wear?
" What did you eat and drink?
" Who was with you on New Year's Eve? On New Year's Day?
" How was it different from your last New Year celebration in your home country?

Share your partner's answers with the group.

New Year

Discussion Questions:
When does your home country celebrate the New Year? Is it always the same date(s)?

How long do New Year's celebrations last in your home country? How many hours or days?

Who celebrates New Year's in your home country? Children, couples, the elderly?

What do people do on New Year's in your home country? Go to a temple, a church, a party?

Where is the best place to be on New Year's in your home country? Is any special location or region considered a hotspot?

Why do people celebrate New Year's in your home country? To celebrate the past or the future?

Some people claim they can foretell the future. How do you tell fortunes in your home country?

As you now know, eating black-eyed peas at New Year's is good luck in the American South. What is good luck at New Year's in your home country? At other times?

Is good fortune due to your place of birth or time of birth? How can you change your luck?

Some people make resolutions to change themselves for the better in the New Year. What resolution would you make?
Ten Popular American New Year's Resolutions
Spend more time with loved ones. How do you show you appreciate loved ones in your home country? How will you give attention to family and friends this year while you are in America?

Get fit and stay fit. What sort of exercise or fitness is important in your home country? How do you improve your stress and mood level?

Lose weight. What group or region of your home country is considered overweight or obese?

Quit Smoking. What forms of nicotine are popular in your home country? Who smokes in your home country?

Enjoy Life More. Why do you think life is so hectic and stressful? What do people in your home country do to balance body, mind, and soul?

Quit Drinking. What types of alcohol are popular in your home country? Who drinks?

Get Out of Debt. How do people handle their money and finances in your home country?

Help Others. How do people in your home country volunteer their time? Where and what do they do?

Get Organized. What do you need to organize? Home, office, clutter?

Learn Something New. Have you ever vowed to learn something new? What new skill or craft are you learning, or will you have learned, in 2008? American English?

Sources and Resources:
www.umm.edu/features/resolutions_guide.htm
The University of Maryland Medical System
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/library for more English Learner information

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