Trick-or-treat: Tomorrow is Halloween

Posted on 30. Oct, 2014 by in Culture

A bowl of Halloween candy.

Image “Halloween Candy” by terren in Virginia on Flickr.com shows a bowl of American Halloween candy.

Tomorrow is the holiday of Halloween in American; so tomorrow night Americans of all ages will be dressing up in costumes, going to parties, and children will be getting ready to go get some candy!

You may already have figured this out, but the holiday of Halloween has come to be synonymous with candy for most Americans. Although there are many Halloween traditions, it seems most of them now revolve around candy. Certainly for most American children, Halloween = candy.

This candy obsession all started with the phrase “trick-or-treat.” In decades past American children used to go houses, dressed up in costume (so people wouldn’t know who they were) and ask if the person at that house wanted to have a trick (trick = an act intended to scare or surprise someone) played on them, or if the person would prefer to give the children a treat (treat = something sweet to eat).  People would choose a trick or a treat, and usually people would choose to give a treat because they didn’t want to have a trick played on them. Treats in the past were not always candy, they were usually food, but could be homemade cookies or a caramel apple.  Today, when children go door-to-door dressed up in costumes on Halloween they don’t usually have a trick in mind to play on anyone; they are mostly just hoping for candy. Some children don’t even know what the phrase “trick-or-treat” really means, but now you do.

Nowadays Halloween candy is big business in America.  There are a lot of children who go trick-or-treating on Halloween night and so most people buy candy to give out to them. People who live in neighborhoods where there are a lot of children usually buy multiple bags of candy to hand out. It is fun to see little children dressed up and excited about Halloween, even if it is just because they want candy.

Fun size Halloween candy.

Image “fun size” by Windell Oskay on Flickr.com

Halloween candy usually is made in small sizes. Very few people hand out full size candy bars. Most people give “miniature” or “mini” candy bars. Some people give out “snack size” or “fun size” candy bars. Mini candy bars are very small and snack size are about ½ to 1/3 the size of a regular candy bar. The candy in the picture above is “snack size.” Some people hand out “full size” or regular sized candy bars, but that is rare. By the end of Halloween night, most children have a bag full of candy, so it is probably best that they are mostly getting little candy bars!

Child with Halloween candy.

Image “Halloween Candy” by Nina Hale on Flickr.com shows a child looking at their candy from trick-or-treating.

For most children, the best part of trick-or-treating is going home and looking at all the candy they have been given.  I remember as a child I would love to lay out all my candy and decide which pieces I liked and which I didn’t like, then I would try to trade the piece of candy I didn’t like with my brothers. The picture above shows a boy with all his Halloween candy laid out and organized. As an adult the best part of Halloween is getting to eat all the left over candy that wasn’t handed out to trick-or-treaters or eating your children’s candy after they have gone to bed :)

Happy Halloween everyone, even if you don’t dress up or go trick-or-treating tomorrow, I hope you enjoy a piece of candy in honor of this sugary holiday!

Let’s play ball: Sports seasons in America

Posted on 28. Oct, 2014 by in Culture

Baseball pitch and sports seasons.

Image “The Closing pitch” by Gill E on Flickr.com.

No matter what time of year it is, there are professional sports being played in the United States. These sport seasons are predictable and regular, just like the seasons of the year. Today I am going to introduce you to the seasons for five major sports leagues in the United States. I’ll also share some interesting information about each of these sports. First, let’s start out with a little overview of sports vocabulary, before we look at the American sports seasons for baseball, basketball, hockey, football and stock car racing.

A sports season is the portion of a year during which regulated games are played. The officials of each sport set the length of each season and the length of the season is usually similar each year. “Preseason” is a period of time before normal regulated play begins. This is when sports teams are allowed to practice together and hold practice games that do not count as part of their win-loss record for the year.  In most sports “regular season” refers to the sport’s normal game schedule in which teams are divided into groups, conferences, or divisions, and each team plays the same number of games against a set of other teams. In the United States sports teams usually play more games against local rivals than teams from far away cities. So not every team in a league will play all the other teams an equal number of times. Because the United States is so big, this is usually done for convenience and to save money and time on travel. After regular season play, most sports leagues have “playoffs” or “championship” games. During the playoffs the teams with the most wins from regular season play in a tournament to decide the ultimate champion for the season.

Now, let’s take a look at five major sports leagues in the United States, their playing season, and a few other fun facts.

The National Football League (NFL)
This is a league for “American Football,” not soccer. In the United States we just call this “football.” The NFL preseason begins in August. The regular season starts in September and ends in January. In February the NFL championship, which is called the Super Bowl, is played. There are 32 teams in the NFL. These teams are divided into two conferences; the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference.  The Green Bay Packers from the state of Wisconsin is the NFL team that has won more championships than any other team in the NFL. They have won 13 times since the league was founded in 1920.

The National Basketball Association (NBA)
This is America’s professional basketball league. The NBA has 30 different teams (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada), which play games from October to April every year. The championship game is held in early May most years. In 2014, the San Antonio Spurs (from Texas) won the championship, but the Boston Celtics (from Massachusetts) have won the most titles (titles = championships) in NBA history.

The National (ice) Hockey League (NHL)
The NHL has a similar season to the NBA. Regular season games in the NHL are played between October and April, with postseason games in May. The NHL has teams from both Canada and The United States. There are 30 teams in total, with 23 clubs in the United States and 7 in Canada. Not surprisingly the team with the most wins in the NHL is from a cold city; Montreal, Canada.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR)
NASCAR is a sport that is a little different from the others I have already presented, and so is its season. This is a sport that starts regular season competitions in the spring, in February, and ends racing in the fall, in September or October. The postseason begins in November.  NASCAR, which was founded in 1948, is the largest association of stock car racers in the United States.

Major League Baseball (MLB)
MLB is the oldest professional sports league in the United States. It was founded in 1869.  The MLB season also begins in the spring, in March, and regular season games are played through August. Postseason games take place in September. MLB teams are divided into two groups; the American League and National League (similar to football).  There are 30 “major league” baseball teams (29 in the United States, 1 in Canada), but more than 200 “minor league” or affiliated teams in the league.  The minor league teams are where players train to be ready to play in the “major league.”  The famous New York Yankees is the MLB team with the most wins throughout the league’s history.

How do these sport seasons match up with the most popular sports in your country? Are they similar or different?

ESL Halloween Vocabulary and Customs

Posted on 27. Oct, 2014 by in Culture, English Grammar, English Vocabulary

If you’re an ESL teacher or student, chances are you’ll be talking about Halloween this week. You may even be going to a Halloween party (or two or three). To get you in the spooky spirit of Halloween, here’s a short video that teaches some useful vocabulary and also explains some of the customs. For the ESL teachers out there scrambling to get a Halloween lesson plan ready, feel free to show this video to your class along with a print-out of the narration:

YouTube Preview Image

“Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31st. Many people in countries all over the world celebrate this holiday. Let’s learn some more about Halloween.

Many people like to wear a costume on Halloween. Some people just like to wear a mask. Here are some other common costumes: alien, ghost, monster, mummy, skeleton, vampire, werewolf, witch, zombie.

On Halloween, children love to go trick-or-treating. They dress up in a costume and go out with friends and parents. They walk around their neighborhood and knock on doors. People give them a treat, such as candy. Or, the children may play a trick, such as TP’ing a house.

Many people like to decorate their home for Halloween. Some people put decorations on the front lawn, while others decorate the inside of their house – even the bathroom. A common Halloween decoration is made with a pumpkin. You cut a face in the pumpkin and put a candle inside. This is called a jack-o-lantern. Some jack-o-lanterns are scary, while others are funny.

Around Halloween, some people like to go to a haunted house. This is a place where you can go to be frightened. Inside, people may grab you or chase you around. It can be very scary, so it might not be good for children.

You can also enjoy a haunted hayride. A big group can go on one together, and you may see some scary things. Of course, some people will try to freak you out.

Another fun thing to do for Halloween is walk through a corn maze. It’s a fun activity for families. Some of these can be very difficult, so you might get lost!

Having a party on Halloween is also very popular, especially for college students and young adults. Some common snacks include candy corn and candied apples, and people like to drink apple cider as well. A fun game you can play at a party is bobbing for apples. Try to get an apple out of the bucket with your mouth!

Happy Halloween everyone!”