Life In Champaign-Urbana
- History of the university & Champaign-Urbana
- Mailing Service
- English Language & Community Education Programs
- Cultural & Recreational Activities
- Other Local Resources
- Local Businesses
History of the university & Champaign-Urbana
When French explorers first came to this area in the late 1600s, they encountered the Illiniwek or Illini Native Americans. The Illinois were actually a confederation of six related tribes and part of the larger Algonquin tribal group. These explorers set up trading posts and missions and gave the French spelling “Illinois” to the name Illini. At one time or another, many different Native American tribes occupied the Illinois region. Their presence is reflected in many place names throughout the state such as Kankakee, Kickapoo, Waukegan and Winnetka. French influence is evident in names such as Des Plaines, Creve Coeur, Joliet and LaSalle. In 1763, the French were defeated by the British in the French and Indian War. The Illinois region then became British territory until the time of the American Revolution. The Iroquois Native Americans gradually drove out the Illini and by 1832 virtually all tribes had been driven out of Illinois.
Illinois became the 21st state in 1818 and Champaign County was established in 1833. Because of the rich land, many farmers moved to Illinois. The town of Urbana became official in June of 1833 and was the county seat. Champaign County was part of the judicial district served by the young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln grew up in the village of New Salem and later lived and worked in the city of Springfield where he is also buried. Illinois is known as the “Land of Lincoln”. The Illinois Central Railroad line from Chicago was established in the 1850’s and ran two miles west of Urbana where the village of West Urbana developed. By 1860 West Urbana had become the city of Champaign, population 1,727. The 1850s were a time of growth in Champaign County. During this period, the first doctors arrived, and the first public school, first newspaper and the first bank were established. The Champaign Public Library was established in 1866, Urbana Free Library in 1874. In 1868, 77 students attended classes at the Illinois Industrial University, which changed its name to the University of Illinois in 1885. Wright Street is the dividing line between Champaign and Urbana today. Part of the university is in Champaign and part is in Urbana. Although the cities are physically connected, they have separate governments, school districts, etc.
Nearly two-thirds of the people of Illinois live in or near Chicago, but the capital city is Springfield. The state tree is the oak, the state bird is the cardinal and the state flower is the native violet. The state song is “By Thy Rivers Gently Flowing”. Principal rivers are the Illinois, the Ohio and the Mississippi. Besides President Abraham Lincoln, other famous natives of Illinois include the social worker Jane Addams, President Ronald Reagan, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, writer Ernest Hemingway and poet Carl Sandburg. Film critic Roger Ebert and Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair are natives of Champaign-Urbana.
Choosing a Bank
There are two basic types of bank accounts: checking accounts and savings accounts. When you go to open your account, take your passport and immigration documents with you to serve as identification.
A checking account will probably be most suited to your needs. With a checking account you can deposit your money in the account and access those funds with a debit card or by writing a personal check. The bank will provide you with a debit card and a few checks to get you started, any additional checks can be ordered for a fee. Some checking accounts have a minimum balance requirement. If you go below the minimum, you will be charged a fee. Be sure to ask about any requirements when you go to open your account.
If you have money that you do not need to use immediately, you may want to open a savings account. The advantage of a savings account is that money in the account earns a small amount of interest. You can usually deposit and withdraw money from a savings account as you wish. As with checking accounts, there is normally a minimum account balance requirement. If your account balance falls below the minimum requirement, the bank will deduct a monthly fee from your account.
ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) & Debit Cards
A debit card is a card that can be used to purchase goods and services in stores and online. They are given with most new checking accounts. They can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. Unlike a credit card, however, the funds are immediately deducted from your account balance when you make a purchase. A debit card allows you to get cash, make deposits, transfer funds, or check your account balance at any time of the day or night from a bank ATM machine. You may be charged a fee for using an ATM from another bank. There are many ATM machines located throughout the Champaign-Urbana area. Please keep your personal safety in mind when using an ATM, especially after dark and when on foot. Never give your Personal Identification Number (PIN) or card information out to anyone.
The only copper colored coin
It is a good idea to establish contact with a physician and dentist when you arrive here, especially if you have children. You may wish to ask friends or co-workers to recommend doctors. Physicians are also listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory under “Physicians and Surgeons” and on the Internet. There are three major clinics in this community. Carle Hospital is located at 602 W. University, Urbana. You can visit them online at carle.org. Presence Covenant Medical Center is located at 140 W. Park, Urbana. Their website is www.provena.org/covenant. Christie Clinic is located in several locations throughout Champaign-Urbana. Their website is https://christieclinic.com/. There are a large number of general and specialty doctors at each clinic. Your particular medical insurance may limit your choice of doctors, so it is important to check with them before making an appointment.
It is important to be on time for doctor’s appointments. However, you may experience a long wait to see the doctor. You may ask the doctor’s receptionist how much the charge will be. On your first visit to a new doctor, you may have to pay at the time of the visit instead of being mailed a bill. Take your health insurance papers with you to the doctor’s office.
Schools require a physical examination before a child enters the school system. You will receive proper forms for this when you register your child for school. It is important for healthy children to have regular physical check-ups and immunizations against illnesses. Whenever your child is sick, telephone your doctor’s office for advice or to make an appointment. The doctor or nurse can answer many of your questions over the telephone.
There are obstetricians—specialists in pregnancy care—and general practitioners who begin caring for women as soon as they learn of their pregnancy. There are several female doctors in this area who care for pregnant women. If you are uncomfortable with a male doctor, you may ask that a female nurse be present during examinations. Many hospitals in the area offer classes for expectant parents. Ask your doctor about these programs. Please Note: not all health insurance plans cover pregnancy/birth costs. Please double check this information with your insurance company.
For injury or illness that needs immediate attention, visit the Emergency Room of a local hospital. Emergency Rooms are open all day and night. Call 911 if you need assistance from the police, fire department, or ambulance transportation.
For more information about Health Insurance, please click here.
Mail is delivered to your home mailbox once a day Monday-Saturday. You can also purchase a Post Office Box (PO Box) that allows you to pick your mail up at the post office when it is convenient for you. A PO Box requires a key, and may be a more secure option. Letters can be deposited in one of the blue mailboxes located on many streets or taken to the post office. If you change your local address the post office should be notified. Champaign and Urbana each have a main post office and several substations that provide partial service.
Post Office Locations
- Address: 2001 N. Mattis Avenue, Phone: 217-373-6018
- Address: 600 N. Neil Street, Phone: 217-352-2167
- Address: 302 E. Green Street, Phone: 217-328-5200
- Address: 3100 Tatman Court, Phone: 217-337-6297
- Address: 202 S. Broadway, Phone: 217-367-9629
- Address: 700 S. Wright Street (on campus, Altgeld Hall), Phone: 217-367-9890
When sending packages, you can use any one of the following services:
Telephone numbers in the U.S. contain ten digits, a three-digit area code (usually written in parentheses), a three-digit number for the local exchange, and a four-digit number for the individual subscriber. For example, the number at ISSS is (217) 333-1303: 217 (area code), 333 (local exchange), 8225 (subscriber number).
Within Your Area Code
When calling another city within your area code, you just dial the seven-digit number. Another way to know which “exchanges” in your area code are considered local is to check a local phone book. A list of local exchanges appears in every phone book. Particularly with land-line phones, non-local calls are more expensive than local calls, even if they are within the same area code.
Outside Your Area Code
The U.S. is divided into many small regions or areas, each reached by an area code that must be dialed when calling from outside that particular “area”. When dialing a telephone number outside your area code, dial a “1” followed by the three digit “area code”. Plus the seven-digit local phone number. For example, if you were in Virginia and needed to call ISSS you would dial: 1-217-333-1303
English Language & Community Education Programs
If you are interested in practicing or improving your English language skills, please visit our English Language page for more information.
Cultural & Recreational Activities
The Krannert Center
- The university’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts contains a 2100-seat Great Hall for orchestra and large performances; a 979-seat Festival Theatre for dance, opera and other musical productions; a 678-seat Playhouse Theatre for plays; and a 150-seat Studio Theatre, which is a facility for experimental theatrical projects.
- Programs at the Krannert Center include professional performances by visiting artists and ensembles, performances by community and campus members, dance concerts by the Dance Theatre, performances by various groups and individuals from the School of Music, Opera Theatre and many annual productions by the university Theatre. The Krannert Center performance schedule is online at www.krannertcenter.com.
The State Farm Center
- The State Farm Center, formerly known as the U of I Assembly Hall, holds basketball games, professional musical performances, ice shows and sports tournaments among many other events. You can get information about upcoming events at www.statefarmcenter.com/.
- In addition to the many programs, organizations, and special events found in the Illini Union, other entertainment is offered. On the lower level, there are bowling lanes, a billiards room, and several fast food establishments.
- On the first floor are some of the large multi-purpose rooms that are used for a variety of meetings, exhibits, dinners and dances. The Information Desk on the north side of the building is a good place to go for maps and questions concerning the university buildings, special events and other information. union.illinois.edu
- Spurlock Museum of Natural History, 600 S. Gregory St., Urbana
- The Spurlock is a museum of world history and culture, holding in its collections approximately 45,000 artifacts from diverse cultures and varied historical time periods. The museum’s permanent galleries celebrate the cultures of Ancient Mediterranean, Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania. Admission is free with the suggestion of a $3 donation. Visit www.spurlock.illinois.edu for hours and more information.
- Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign
- The permanent collection of this museum provides a visual review of art history, Egyptian sculpture, Greek vases, medieval stained glass, renaissance paintings, English silver, Indian miniatures and Chinese porcelains. Admission is free with a suggested donation of $3. Visit www.kam.illinois.edu for hours and more information.
- Campus Recreation provides facilities and equipment for the leisure and fitness needs of university students, faculty and staff. There are several facilities that can be used by members of Campus Rec. The Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) is one of the country’s largest on-campus recreation centers with indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, racquetball, handball, squash and basketball courts, a running track, locker and shower facilities, saunas and much more. Facilities are also available to spouses of university employees and to children of university employees during certain hours. For a list of locations, hours and fees, please visit www.campusrec.illinois.edu.
- Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE) is located in the heart of campus behind Freer Gym, close to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and two blocks from Foellinger Auditorium. CRCE has 110,000 square feet of space, including an aquatic center, two gyms, racquetball courts, multipurpose workout rooms, track, and a fitness area with a great view of campus.
- This park surrounds the Allerton mansion, 20 miles west of Champaign off I-72 near Monticello. Natural areas as well as formal manicured gardens and sculptures highlight hiking or walking paths. For more information you can visit www.allerton.illinois.edu.
Champaign & Urbana Park Districts
- Champaign and Urbana together provide 49 parks and recreation centers for public use. There are a variety of programs, activities, and beautiful areas to explore in the Champaign-Urbana area. For a full list of events and information, visit www.urbanaparks.org or www.champaignparkdistrict.com.
Champaign Urbana Ballet Company
- The Champaign Urbana Ballet Company is comprised of local dancers. They perform an annual December production of The Nutcracker as well as a spring performance. www.cuballet.com
Cinemas & Live Theatres
- There are several movie theatres in Champaign-Urbana. The least expensive shows are usually before 6pm. The Art Theatre, 126 W. Church, Champaign, shows many foreign films. You can also view one of the latest U.S. productions at the Savoy 16 Theatre on south Route 45 or the Beverly Cinema on north Prospect Avenue. Follow the links below for show times.
Live theatre performances can be seen at the Station Theatre, 223 N. Broadway, Urbana, the Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park, Champaign (home of the Champaign-Urbana Theatre company), and, on campus, the Armory Free Theatre, composed of university students.
Kickapoo State Park
- This park offers boating, horseback riding, fishing and canoeing with camping and picnicking sites also available. Winter sports include ice-skating, ice fishing and sledding. Kickapoo is located four miles west of Danville on I-74.
Lake of the Woods
- This forest preserve, located north of I-74 near Mahomet, sponsors a wide range of activities including paddleboats, rowboats, golfing and hiking. The Early American Museum and Botanical Gardens are also located there.
Homer Lake (Salt Lake River Forest Preserve)
- Homer Lake has 56 acres of land and an 80 acre lake featuring fishing, sailing, hiking, cross country skiing, picnicking and nature study. Take I-74 east to the Ogden exit and take Route 49 south about one mile and follow the signs.
- Springfield is the capital of the State of Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln. There are many historical places to visit including the State Capitol, the Old State Capitol, Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Lincoln’s Tomb. Near Springfield is New Salem where Lincoln’s boyhood village has been reconstructed.
- Chicago is located two and a half hours north of Champaign-Urbana on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Important places in Chicago include: The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, The Art Institute, Buckingham Fountain, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Willis Tower.
For more information about things to do in the State of Illinois, visit the Enjoy Illinois website!
Other Local Resources
There are two main libraries on campus: the Undergraduate and Main Libraries. During the academic year, there are regular tours given of these two libraries. The university’s main card catalog, circulation desk, general information desk and stacks are all located on the second floor of the Main Library. You must have a university faculty or staff ID card to enter the stacks. This building also contains several departmental libraries including the Asian, Commerce, Education and Social Sciences, Modern Languages and Linguistics and Reference Libraries, among others. Interlibrary Loan is also located in the Main Library.
There are many other libraries in other buildings around campus such as the Music Library, Engineering Library, and the Health Sciences Library. Not all of these libraries have the same hours. Some are open at night and also on weekends. Information concerning the hours of all libraries on campus is available at https://www.library.illinois.edu/services/find.php.
Both Champaign and Urbana have public libraries. Residents of the towns are eligible to use both public libraries without charge. Each library has special programs for children and a large collection of children’s books, a collection of records and pictures, international newspapers and a reference section.
To obtain a library card you must present proof that you are a resident of the town. A library card allows you to take items home for a specified length of time. There is no charge for taking out books (unless you don’t return them by the due date). There may be a small charge for checking out DVDs, videos, or CDs.
Newspapers & Publications
The Daily Illini
The campus newspaper is published Monday-Friday during the academic year and during summer session. It is written by students and contains national, local and campus news. The Daily Illini is a good source of information about campus activities, entertainment, lectures, symposia, etc. It contains the weekly university calendar and daily notices. You may also find classified advertisements for such things as housing, used items, and job openings.
Champaign-Urbana’s only daily newspaper for local, some national and international news, and classified advertising. You may subscribe to the paper and have it delivered to your home or buy it at the Illini Union and most drugstores and supermarkets in the area. The News-Gazette office is located at 15 E. Main, Champaign, 351-5252. You can also visit their website at
The Illini Union and most drugstores and supermarkets in the area sell Chicago and New York newspapers. Some local bookstores sell international magazines and newspapers. The university has a Newspaper Library in Room 246 of the Main Library, 333-1509, which subscribes to many overseas newspapers. The University YMCA on Wright Street has a few international newspapers that you may read there.
There are several AM and FM radio stations which broadcast a wide variety of news, music, and other entertainment. The university operates three radio stations: WILL-AM at 580 on your AM dial offers a wide variety of information and National Public Radio; WILL-FM at 90.9 features classical music and fine arts broadcasts; WPGU-FM at 107.1 and AM at 640, a student-run radio station, features a wide range of news, music, and entertainment.
There are four local television stations that broadcast a variety of programs shown nationally. National and international news is broadcast daily at 5:30pm. Local news is broadcast daily at 6:00pm and 10:00pm.
Cable television is also available giving you access to more local and out-of-town stations as well as movie channels such as Home Box Office (HBO) and news stations such as CNN and Headline News. There are charges for installation and monthly service for cable television. If you are interested, contact a cable television service listed in the telephone directory. Cable television is provided in university family housing.
The United States is divided into 6 time zones: Eastern Standard Time, Central Standard Time, Mountain Standard Time, Pacific Standard Time, Alaska Standard Time, and Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time. The State of Illinois is located in the Central Standard Time Zone, often abbreviated to CST. When moving from East to West, subtract 1 hour for each time zone. For example, if it is 2:00 pm in Virginia (Eastern Time Zone), it is 1:00 pm in Champaign, Illinois (Central Standard Time).
When viewing times, especially for national events, it is important to note the time zone abbreviation, and calculate the appropriate time based on your current time zone.
Being On Time
To some, the United States is considered a very time-conscious culture. Many people think it is important to be “on time” for meetings, appointments, and even social events. People often create a schedule of their daily meetings and appointments, and aim to arrive a few minutes before each one. Allowing enough time for transportation between meetings is also something to take into consideration.
Types of Stores
- Supermarkets (grocery stores)
- These are large stores where you can buy almost any food (meats, vegetables, fruit, baked good, milk, cheese), cleaning supplies, paper goods, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. They are frequently combined with a drugstore and therefore have a pharmacy. Supermarkets in this area include County Market, Schnucks, Meijer, and Wal-Mart.
- Specialty Stores
- There are several international food stores, “health food” stores, meat and fish specialty stores, and bakeries in Champaign-Urbana. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be purchased during the summer at weekly Farmers Markets in Champaign and Urbana. There are many places in the countryside around Champaign-Urbana where you can buy, and in some cases pick, your own fresh produce.
- Convenience Stores
- These are smaller stores with a more limited selection of items. Prices are usually higher than at larger supermarkets. Some of the convenience stores in this area are Colonial Pantry and Super Pantry. Many convenience stores are connected to gas stations.
- These businesses sell a variety of items such as cosmetics, candy, magazines, film, cleaning products, and personal hygiene products. Drugstores in this area include Walgreen’s and CVS Pharmacy.
- Hardware Stores
- Specialize in home repair items but often carry a wide variety of household items and gifts. True Value is one local hardware store.
Major Shopping Areas
There are several major shopping centers in Champaign-Urbana:
- Market Place Mall, North Neil Street, just north of Interstate 74.
- Country Fair Shopping Center, Mattis and Springfield Avenues, Champaign.
- Lincoln Square Mall, Green and Broadway Streets, Urbana.
- Old Farm Shopping Center, Mattis and Kirby Avenues, Champaign.
- Prospect Avenue, north of Interstate 74.
“Garage Sales” are held by private individuals. They are very popular and an acceptable way to buy and sell items. People sell used clothing and household supplies at these sales and you can often find good quality items at low prices.
Hours of Business
Business Offices are usually open from 8 or 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Employees take a lunch break around 12:00 but offices usually remain open during that time. On the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, most offices are closed from 12:00 to 1:00 pm.
Most stores open at 9 or 10am and remain open until 9 or 10pm and are open seven days per week. Some supermarkets are open 24 hours, including holidays.
There are a number of circumstances in the U.S. when tipping is expected. Many service personnel depend on tips for the majority of their income. Expected tips are as follows:
- Porters at airports, train or bus stations, $1.00 per piece of luggage
- Bellhops who show you to your hotel room and carry your baggage in hotels, a minimum of $1.00
- Waiters or waitresses in restaurants, 15% of the bill
- Taxi drivers, 15% of the fare
- Barbers or hairdressers, 10-15% of the bill
*Never offer a tip to public officials, including police officers.
Official holidays are usually recognized throughout the U.S. On those days, schools, businesses, banks, post offices and most stores are closed. To see the official holidays when the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is closed visit the university’s posted holiday schedule online.
New Year’s Day (January 1): New Year’s Eve, December 31, is more important to Americans than New Year’s Day itself. Popular activities on New Year’s Day included watching televised parades and football games.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Third Monday in January): Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized and led the civil rights movement in the U.S. during the 1960s. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and was assassinated in 1968.
Ground Hog Day (February 2): The groundhog is a small burrowing animal that hibernates during the winter months. Legend has it that he emerges on February 2. If he sees his shadow he will return to his burrow and there will be six more weeks of wintry weather. If he does not see his shadow, spring will come soon.
Valentine’s Day (February 14): Named for St. Valentine. A lovers’ holiday that is celebrated by sending cards called valentines and giving flowers or candy in heart-shaped boxes. Red and pink are traditional Valentine’s Day colors.
Presidents’ Day (Third Monday in February): This holiday commemorates George Washington’s birthday (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12). George Washington was a general during the American Revolution and the first President of the U.S. Abraham Lincoln was President during the Civil War, 1861-1865. He acted to abolish slavery and bring the seceded states back into the Union.
Casmimir Pulaski Day (First Monday in March): This day is commemorated by school children in the State of Illinois. Pulaski was a Polish nobleman (1747-79) who served George Washington in the American Revolution and died in that war. The State of Illinois has a large Polish-American population, and several places are named for Pulaski including Pulaski Avenue in Chicago and the town of Mount Pulaski.
Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17): Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Irish immigrants brought this holiday to the U.S. People--especially Americans of Irish heritage--celebrate this day by wearing something green and wearing jewelry, etc. in the shape of a shamrock leaf. In the city of Chicago, which as a large Irish-American population, there is a large parade and the Chicago River is dyed green for this day.
April Fool’s Day (April 1): As in many other countries, this day is marked by the custom of playing practical jokes on one’s friends and colleagues.
Passover (Eight days, usually in April): The Jewish holiday of Passover commemorates the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt in 1200 B.C. A highlight of the festival is the Seder, a ceremonial dinner attended by family and friends, during which the memory of the exodus is recounted through reading, singing and the consumption of symbolic foods. Unleavened bread or matzoh is eaten during this time.
Easter (One Sunday in Spring): A religious holiday on which Christians commemorate the resurrection of Christ. Many folk traditions are now connected with Easter, including the decoration of brightly colored eggs, egg hunts and giving baskets of candy (from the Easter Bunny) to children. Preceded by Good Friday.
Mother’s Day (Second Sunday in May): On this day, Americans honor their mothers by sending them flowers, buying small gifts and taking them out to eat.
Father’s Day (Third Sunday in June): Fathers are honored on this day. Children give their father cards and gifts.
Memorial Day (Last Monday in May): Memorial Day is dedicated to the memory of all Americans who died in wars. Many families visit graves and decorate them with flowers, and the day is also marked with patriotic parades. This day is considered the beginning of the summer season.
Independence Day/Fourth of July (July 4): This is the U.S. National Day. It commemorates the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia in 1776. This holiday is celebrated all over the country with picnics, parades, political speeches and community get-togethers that culminate in fireworks displays.
Labor Day (First Monday in September): This holiday was established in recognition of the labor movement’s contribution to the productivity of this country. This day is the last holiday of the summer season and is celebrated with picnics and other outings.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (3 days in September and October): The holidays of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and the ten-day interval between them comprise the most sacred period in the Jewish calendar. This period, known as the High Holy Days, combines the welcoming of the New Year with reflective examination of one’s life during the past year. Rosh Hashanah is characterized by family feasts and sending New Year’s greetings. Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish year, is a time of fasting and prayer.
Columbus Day (Second Monday in October): Columbus reached the West Indies in 1492, and is popularly referred to as the explorer who “discovered” America, although the continent was already populated by Native Americans and had been visited by earlier seafarers. Americans observe the holiday with parades and festivals. In the Northeast, the long weekend is the high point of the season for viewing the brilliantly colored fall leaves.
Halloween (October 31): This was originally a religious holiday-the day before All Soul’s Day--but its religious character has been lost in the U.S. and it is now celebrated mostly as a children’s day. Traditions include carving out pumpkins with funny faces as well as dressing in costumes and going around the neighborhood to receive treats of candy, fruit, and cookies. When they knock on the door, children say “trick or treat”. Adults often use the occasion for costume parties. Colors of the holiday are orange and black and symbols include witches, ghosts, broomsticks and black cats.
Veterans Day (November 11): Originally established to commemorate Armistice Day of the First World War, the holiday was changed after World War II to serve as an occasion to pay tribute to veterans of all wars. It is marked by parades, speeches, and the laying of wreaths at military cemeteries and war memorials.
Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November): In 1621 the pilgrims of Plymouth colony in Massachusetts prepared a feast that they shared with some Native Americans to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and their survival over the wilderness. It was made an official holiday in 1863. Americans give thanks for the good life they enjoy by getting together with family and friends to eat traditional food such as turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
Hanukkah (late November or early December): An eight-day Jewish holiday marking the rededication of the Temple. The “Festival of Lights” is celebrated by exchanging gifts and lighting the candles of the menorah.
Christmas Day (December 25): Although religious in origin (commemorating the birth of Christ), Christmas is a holiday celebrated either in a secular or religious way by most everyone in the country. Family members travel great distances to be together for this day on which gifts are exchanged and a traditional dinner is shared. Many houses are decorated with Christmas trees, lights, candles and wreaths, and Santa Claus brings gifts for children.
Kwanzaa (Seven days beginning December 26): An African-American holiday adapted from the traditional African “harvest of first crops”. It is highlighted by exchanging gifts, feasting, lighting candles and discussing special topics.
New Year’s Eve (December 31): People gather with friends and family for parties to “ring out the old and ring in the new” an expression that reflects the old custom of ringing church bells to greet the New Year.