Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We listen to some holiday music that has been nominated for a Grammy Award …
Answer a question about how Americans celebrate Christmas …
And tell about a yearly craft show.
Washington Craft Show
Earlier this year, we told about the Smithsonian Craft Show that takes place in Washington, D.C., in the spring. This month, another yearly craft show was held in the city. Visitors to the Washington Craft Show could see the work of almost two hundred skilled artists from around the United States. The artists make beautiful works of art out of materials such as glass, cloth, wood, metal and paper. Faith Lapidus tells us more.
The company Crafts America organizes three craft shows every year. The shows are in Westchester County, New York; West Palm Beach, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Every year, Crafts America appoints three craft experts to choose from among one thousand artists who apply to be in the craft show. The judges rate each artist on creativity, skill, and quality.
Walking through the Washington Craft Show is an exciting experience filled with artistic surprises. For example, you might see basket containers made by Christine and Michael Adcock. These artists from the state of California weave together fiber material from plants. They create wildly unusual baskets in different shapes and earthy colors.
Jeung-Hwa Park makes colorful scarves to wear around the neck. But her silk and wool creations are more like sculptures than just clothing. She forms the material to make small balls that almost look like bubbles. At the Craft Show, Ms. Park hung all her scarves based on color. Her exhibit space looked like a rainbow of cloth art.
David D'Imperio is an artist and inventor who works with light. His lights for the home combine the details of machinery with the forms found in nature. One light, called "La Brea," is made for placing on a table or desk surface. It looks like a small bending tree made from stainless steel. The branches of the tree have very small LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes. The La Brea light combines modern technology with the timeless beauty of trees.
To see pictures of the work made by these artists and many others, you can visit www.craftsamericashows.com.
Christmas in America
Our listener question this week comes from Burma. Soe Lwin Kyaw asks how Americans celebrate Christmas, December twenty-fifth, the day Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.
Not all Americans celebrate Christmas. Members of the Jewish and Muslim religions, for example, generally do not. But those who do celebrate Christmas do so in many different ways. Many Christians will go to church the night before the holiday or on Christmas Day. Christian ministers will speak about the need for peace and understanding in the world. This is the spiritual message of Christmas.
Many other Americans will celebrate Christmas as an important, but non-religious, holiday. They have put bright colorful lights on the outside of their houses. For many people, the most enjoyable tradition is buying a Christmas tree, placing it in their house and decorating it with lights and beautiful objects. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, the family will gather around the tree to open presents.
Some people will travel long distances to be with their families for Christmas. But others will take a holiday trip to a warm area. Elizabeth Varela of McLean, Virginia likes to go to Florida with her husband and two little boys. But, she says, this year they do not feel as carefree about financial issues. She says they will stay home and save money.
Most Christmas celebrations include some kind of gift exchange. Many young children believe gifts come from Santa Claus. Tradition says Santa is a fat, happy man who brings presents to children around the world on the night before Christmas.
Some people pay little attention to Santa, however. Kris Solberg is director of a Baptist pre-school in Falls Church, Virginia. She says Santa is not a major subject in classes. She says she wants her students to think more about the birth of Jesus Christ.
Santa Claus is also the subject of debate this year in the United States. The acting Surgeon General Steven Galson recently said the fat man is a bad example for children. He was speaking at a conference on obesity among children. His comments created much debate for and against fat Santas.
Americans also continue to debate the appearance of Christmas traditions in public places. Some argue that such displays may offend or insult people who do not celebrate the holiday. And they say such displays violate laws that separate religion and government. But opponents say the United States is a majority Christian country based on freedom of religion. They say moves to restrict displays and traditions connected to the holiday amount to a "War on Christmas."
Christmas Music Nominated for Grammies
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has announced the list of nominees for the two thousand eight Grammy Awards. The ceremony will be held in Los Angeles, California in February. Barbara Klein tells us about some of them.
The Grammy Awards recognize excellent musical recordings and the people who create them. The award is a small statue that is shaped like the early record player called a gramophone. The word "Grammy" is a short way of saying gramophone.
Members of the Recording Academy choose the best music each year. Awards are given for all kinds of music — popular, jazz, classical, country, rap and many others.
Singers nominated for the Traditional Pop Vocal Album award this year are Michael Buble, Queen Latifah, Barbra Streisand, James Taylor and Bette Midler. Two of the nominated albums have Christmas songs. The first is "James Taylor At Christmas." Here is one of the songs on that album, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
The other Christmas album nominated for a Pop Vocal Grammy this year is Bette Midler's "Cool Yule." We leave you now with the title song.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Dana Demange, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Send your questions about American life to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A. Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.