Every culture around the world has its own unique set of holidays and traditions. Some holidays commemorate significant events in a country’s history, while others are rooted in religion and faith. While holidays differ in many ways from one culture to the next, they all represent a time for people to gather, share stories, eat food, and uphold traditions. Learning about the holidays celebrated around the world builds understanding of the beliefs, rituals, and practices across cultures. This audio collection highlights holidays celebrated in the U.S. and beyond, with stories that can deepen understanding of each holiday's special meaning.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech was delivered at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. In this public radio story you will hear from activists who were present that day and heard the speech. They remember that its power came not only from the words MLK spoke, but the way he spoke them, in rolling cadences that “raised his audience.”
George Washington was the hero of the American Revolution with a victory at Yorktown in 1781. He could have used his victory to seize power, but he went home to Mount Vernon. In this audio story, the remarkable characteristics of George Washington are considered. He is a historic figure not only because he was a great general, statesman and politician, but also because he voluntarily gave up power. His action cemented the United States as a democracy, in which citizens, rather than absolute rulers, have the power to govern the nation. Listen to hear how Washington’s actions are analyzed and interpreted.
Why do Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4th? John Adams himself thought that July 2nd would be the day Americans celebrated independence but he was wrong. What happened on July 4th to mark such an occasion? This story explores the origins of Independence Day and examines the issues of slavery and immigration in the early days of the United States.
The largest sea invasion in history happened June 6, 1944 during World War II. It was named D-Day, and the Allied forces landed on 5 beaches of Normandy, France to liberate the German-occupied territory. Every year, on June 6th, many countries commemorate this important battle that marked a turning point during World War II. In this audio story, an American soldier discusses his combat experiences on D-Day, the challenges as a soldier in WWII, and the encounters with the terrors of war. Listen to learn more about D-Day as well as how this soldier feels now as he reflects on this historic battle.
Oil lamps light up hundreds of millions of Indian homes during Diwali, a festival celebrating the victory of good over evil and “finding the light within.” This religious celebration is a public holiday in many countries. There are prayers invoking the Hindu goddesses and stories are told of Hindu gods fighting between good and evil, symbolizing every person's struggle. Families decorate with colorful decorations and lights, and perform ritual prayers. Listen to learn more about this holiday from a family that celebrates this tradition in the United States.
Siddhartha Guatama was born into an aristocratic family in ancient India. He later gave up that life in search of spiritual enlightenment which led him to found Buddhism. Bodhi Day, celebrated on December 8, commemorates the day that Siddhartha Gautama became the first Buddha. On this day, Buddhists around the world reflect on his journey out of suffering and towards enlightenment. Listen to hear a Buddhist scholar and minister explain the purpose of Bodhi Day, the spiritual path of Siddhartha Gautama, and the basic tenets of Buddhism.
During the Christmas season, people of various faiths, such as Jews and Muslims, spend the holiday in different ways. Muslims and Christians both believe that Jesus is a prophet and Mary is a saint. One chapter in the Quran is titled "Mary" and retells the story of Christ’s birth, which point to similarities between religions. Listen to hear from Muslims about what new traditions come out of spending Christmas in the United States.
A turkey at the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland is not worried about becoming Thanksgiving dinner. Instead this turkey will be the guest of honor at dinner. Every year hundreds of people who eat only vegan or vegetarian food gather to eat with the turkeys, pigs, sheep, and other farm animals at Thanksgiving time. And they let the animals eat first. With help from charitable donations, this sanctuary has over 200 animals and a full-time caretaker. Listen to hear more about this unusual feast at Thanksgiving.
The holiday known as Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage and culture and is observed for seven days, ending on January 1. The holiday includes lights, a feast, and gift-giving, and surrounds the holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah. Kwanzaa was created within the last century and has gone through changes in who celebrates it and how it is observed. Now, more religions are celebrating the holiday than initially intended. Listen to learn about how Kwanzaa began and how it has changed.
Many boys and girls have wondered how Santa Claus delivers toys to every child in one night. This story takes a scientific approach to answering that question. Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains how Santa avoids burning up in the atmosphere when going at the speed of light, and how the reindeer might be more technically equipped than we think. Listen to learn about the military program that has been tracking Santa for years and information about Santa that you might not know.
Ramadan is a month-long Muslim practice during which observers do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Two American Muslim women and podcasters recently discussed what it’s like to observe Ramadan in America. They described their coworkers’ reactions to their fasting, their experiences observing Ramadan, and what the holy month means to them. They also provide advice for non-Muslims who want to learn more about the religion from their Muslim friends. Listen to learn more about Ramadan.
Love is a universal human emotion that brings us joy, focuses our priorities, and helps us face the challenges in our lives. The experience of love has inspired many poets to write about what drives it and how it affects us. Poet Kwame Alexander reflects on his love for his children and invites students to write about what love means to them. Listen to this interview with Alexander, who reads poetry about love and discusses why this powerful feeling keeps people connected, engaged, and motivated.
Jelly donuts are traditionally eaten to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, but even many Jews are not sure why. The holiday began in ancient times, when a miracle was declared after a small amount of oil burned for eight days. Eating foods fried in oil, such as donuts, reminds Jews of the miracle. But why the jelly? Listen to hear the story behind jelly donuts and how they became a traditional Hanukkah food.
Although President Lincoln outlawed slavery in 1863, it was not until two years later that enslaved people in Texas learned the news, when a Union general rode into Galveston to announce it. Black communities have long celebrated Juneteenth – June 19 – to remember that day in 1865 and celebrate freedom. Many other Americans are unfamiliar with the event, but recently, Congress unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Listen to learn more about the meaning and importance of Juneteenth and how recent events helped raise awareness of the holiday.
Labor Day, a time to honor American workers, first became a federal holiday in 1894. The history of labor rights and relations, however, goes back much farther than that and spans diverse cultures and civilizations. Listen to hear about labor milestones along the way and learn why pirates were considered champions of workers’ rights.
Chile en nogada, a poblano pepper stuffed with meat, fruits, and nuts, is considered the national dish of Mexico. It showcases the colors of the country’s flag and is typically eaten on Independence Day, when Mexicans commemorate the overthrow of Spanish rule 200 years ago. Ingredients in the beloved dish reflect the cultures of both Mexico and Spain. Listen to learn more about the origin and history of chile en nogada, a mouth-watering Mexican classic.
President Biden has declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day a federal holiday. The day is designated as a time to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans, past and present, and to remember the violence and displacement they have suffered. The newly established federal holiday shares the second Monday in October with Columbus Day, an arrangement that acknowledges the complexity of America’s past. Listen to hear an Indigenous professor explain what the holiday means to her and how she hopes it will influence how Native Americans are perceived.
The Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to mourn the loss of those who have passed and to joyously celebrate and remember their lives. Family and community members often gather in a festive atmosphere at cemeteries where they await the return of souls, and share stories and objects that remind them of their loved ones.The holiday draws on both Indigenous and Spanish Catholic beliefs and traditions. Listen to learn more about a unique, centuries-old celebration and how it can help people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
No one knows exactly which dishes were served at the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, but cookbook author Earl Mills Sr. has made some educated guesses. In this audio story, the Wampanoag chief and restaurant owner discusses some of the animals and grains native to Cape Cod that Native Americans and Pilgrims may have shared, and he describes his efforts to recreate those recipes today. Listen to hear about some delicious, authentic, and surprising Thanksgiving recipes.
Billions of people around the world celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year. Celebrations begin on the first new moon of the year, and conclude two weeks later when people release beautiful paper lanterns into the sky. Eating a big meal, exchanging red envelopes of money, and honoring family are all important holiday traditions. Listen to a young reporter describe how her family celebrates the Lunar New Year.
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