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Cultural Traits of America The diversity of America’s ethnic groups and cultures has helped shaped the values of the country’s people. Some individuals and groups, of course, have a set of respected values that are quite different from those of mainstream America, and their attitudes and behaviors are based on and tend to reflect these values. However, in looking at America as a whole it is fairly easy to discern the traits and institutions that seem to have the most bearing on the way Americans think and behave—particularly their individualism and employment.
Cultural Aspects of America Religion plays a major role in the lives of Americans, and the United States is home to people of all faiths and creeds. According to census data, nearly three-quarters of the American population self-identifies as Christian. About half of those practice one of the many Protestant faiths, and over one-quarter follows the precepts of the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, a small percentage of people belong to the Church of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church. These numbers, however, do not accurately reflect religious participation in the country, which has dwindled gradually every year since the 1950s.
The Arts • The United States is a world leader and pioneer in mass media production, including television and the movies. Beginning in the early 1950s, the television industry quickly took a hold in America, and today the various programs of the United States are shown throughout the world. • In every corner of the nation, no American is ever far from a television, and from a cultural standpoint, television is easily the country’s most preferred form of entertainment. • Depending on the Cable or Satellite Television provider and package one chooses, Americans have access to hundreds of channels and a variety of interesting and enjoyable programming.
Midwest The heartland of America is known for its scrumptious comfort food, with recipes that can be traced back to Germany and many Eastern European countries. Family style dishes are very popular in this region, especially what is known as “Hot Dish.” Hot Dish is an all-in-one meal; a type of casserole invented for its convenience and ability to feed large groups of people. Typical Hot Dishes are made using some type of meat—beef, pork, chicken—mixed with potatoes and vegetables and cooked in a cream sauce, such as cream of mushroom soup. Casseroles such as these are the perfect family meal solution for the cold winter nights of Chicago, Michigan and Minnesota.
Holidays and Celebrations Many holidays and celebrations are observed in the United States, beginning on January 1, when the country rings in the New Year with a bang. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather in New York’s Times Square to watch the iconic “ball” drop, counting down to the stroke of midnight, while people around the country offer a toast for a healthy and prosperous new year. Americans celebrate their independence from the British each year on July the 4—celebrations that are marked by fireworks, backyard barbecues and plenty of good will. Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors those who have died in military service; and Labor Day, observed on the first Monday in September, celebrates the country’s workforce. Thanksgiving is another emblematic and distinctively American holiday. It falls on the fourth Thursday in November and dates back to colonial times, when the first Pilgrims and the Native Americans celebrated the harvest. Presidents’ Day in the United States, marking the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, among others, is a federal holiday that occurs on the third Monday in February. The sacrifices of America’s veterans are honored on Veterans’ Day, observed on November 11, and the contributions of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. are remembered on the third Monday in January.
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