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            August 2004

National Geographic publishes around the world, so who better to point you to the most unusual, unique, and sometimes irreverent cultural traditions in their countries than the editors of our international editions? Each month a real insider reveals five favorites in this series.

Who runs the show: Bill Allen, Editor in Chief

Name of the game: National Geographic

When it all started: 1888

Where it all happens: Washington, D.C.

Who makes it happen: 144 full-time staff, including five staff photographers and about one hundred freelance photographers and authors working at any given time.

What goes out: 6.6 million English-language copies a month, distributed worldwide

What keeps you going: "I really enjoy seeing an extraordinary set of photos come together in a layout that will ultimately go out to our readers. It's a great feeling when I receive the first bound copy of an issue and see the work of the writers, photographers, artists, and staff."

Best office perk: "Its never been an official designation, but the first parking space next to the door on the VIP garage level is the traditional spot for the magazine Editor. Actually, I inherited it before I became Editor because Bill Graves, the previous Editor, didn't like it. He always headed in, and his car door got stuck by one of the large posts. But I solved that problem easily. I just back in."

Favorite end-of-the-workweek activity: "I head down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to visit my 17-month-old grandson, William L. Allen IV. He's my first grandchild, and he has the greatest smile. He even has his own website and a loyal fan club consisting of several NGM staff members."

International Editions
FlagFive Cultural Bests
Cultural Bests
"Family" is the recurring theme throughout the Editor's five favorite American traditions.
1. Thanksgiving
"American children grow up hearing about the feast shared between English immigrants and the Indians they encountered upon landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Thanksgiving, celebrated the fourth Thursday in November, commemorates that event. Besides being a traditional occasion for offering thanks, it's a great excuse for families to get together and celebrate with food, food, and more food. And with no guilt."

2. Stanford University Graduation
"My son graduated from Stanford in 1993. What started as a solemn procession of graduates in the university stadium morphed into an innovative, joyous, irreverent, and fun celebration of accomplishment called the Wacky Walk. Frisbees and Slip 'N Slides suddenly appeared from underneath the students' robes as others hauled out gallon jugs of water. Then 1,100 high-achievers put aside the pomp and had a great time. It's a Stanford tradition that goes back 17 years."

3. Independence Day
"On July 4 Americans celebrate the beginnings of this country. From the smallest hamlets to the largest cities, people turn out to fly the flag and march in parades. Families and friends get together over hot dogs, hamburgers, and barbecue. But for me, the best part is the fireworks. The show at the National Mall is the most spectacular of the year."

4. Memorial Day
"This more subdued holiday is observed the last Monday in May. Special ceremonies are held at war memorials throughout the country to honor the sacrifices of those who helped preserve the liberty of the United States."

5. Rival Football Games
"The passion of American football fans reaches a fever pitch when rival teams compete in a big game. These are classics: The University of Texas at Austin versus the University of Oklahoma, Stanford versus the University of California at Berkeley, and Army versus Navy. Die-hard fans will bundle up against the autumn chill in the colors of their favorite team, grab their banners, and travel great distances to get to a game. Their loyalty is unstoppable."

Each month our international editors share what they consider to be the five most unique cultural traditions of their countries, anything from raucous festival events to somber religious celebrations to death-defying rites of passage. Now it's your turn. What's your favorite cultural tradition? Join our forum.

Photographs by Catherine Karnow, CORBIS (left), Bob Rowan, CORBIS (center), and Conrad Zobel, CORBIS (right)

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