Holidays of the United States

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Holidays of the United States vary with local observance. Strictly speaking, the United States does not have national holidays. The federal government recognizes ten annual and one quadrennial holiday for its employees. The annual federal holidays are widely observed by state and local governments and businesses, but they may alter the dates of observance or add or subtract holidays according to local custom. Pursuant to the Monday Holidays Act of 1968, most official holidays are observed on the Monday closest to the actual date of the holiday, except for New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. There are also U.S. state holidays particular to individual U.S. states.

Most American holidays recognize events or people from U.S. history, although two are shared in common with many other countries: Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

New Year's Day celebration begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous coming year.

Christmas Day, December 25, is a Christian holiday; it marks the birth of Jesus. Decorating houses and yards with lights, putting up Christmas trees, giving gifts, and sending greeting cards have become traditions even among many non-Christian Americans.

The holiday season, commonly said to run between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day (and in particular, the week separating Christmas and New Year's Day), is often celebrated as a nonsectarian winter holiday.

In addition to Christian holidays, Jewish holidays are observed in communities with large Jewish populations, particularly big cities.

Many observances and special days are also issued by Presdential Proclamation. See List of Observances Issued by US Presidential Proclamation.

There are many annual observances in the USA, (some of which are listed below) that are not celebrated by the rest of the world.


Federal holidays

Federal holidays are designated by Congress in Title V of the United States Code (5 U.S.C. 6103).[1] (

Date Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day celebrates beginning of year, marks traditional end of "holiday season"
January, third Monday Martin Luther King Day honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader; combined with other holidays in several states (traditionally January 15)
January 20, every fourth year, following Presidential election Inauguration Day Observed only by federal government employees Washington D.C., and the near counties of Maryland and Virginia. Swearing-in of President of the United States and other elected federal officials. Celebrated every fourth year. Note: Takes place on January 21 if the 20th is a Sunday (although the President is still privately inaugurated on the 20th).
February, third Monday Washington's Birthday, or Presidents' Day honors Washington, but also Lincoln and other past American Presidents as "Presidents' Day." (traditionally February 22)
May, last Monday Memorial Day honors service men and women who died in military service, marks traditional beginning of summer. (traditionally May 30)
July 4 Independence Day celebrates Declaration of Independence, usually called the Fourth of July.
September, first Monday after the first Sunday Labor Day celebrate achievements of workers, marks traditional end of summer.
October, second Monday Columbus Day honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discover of the Americas. In some areas it is also a celebration of Italian culture and heritage. (traditionally October 12)
November 11 Veterans Day honors all veterans of the United States armed forces. A traditional observation is a moment of silence at 11 AM remembering those who fought for peace.
November, fourth Thursday Thanksgiving a day to give thanks for autumn harvest, marks traditional beginning of "holiday season."
December 25 Christmas celebrates the nativity of Jesus, also celebrated as secular winter holiday.

Other holidays observed nationwide

In addition to the official holidays, many religious, ethnic, and other traditional holidays populate the calendar, as well as observances proclaimed by officials and lighter celebrations. These are rarely observed by businesses as holidays; indeed, many are viewed as opportunities for commercial promotion. Because of this commercialization, some critics apply the depreciative term Hallmark holiday to such days, after the Hallmark greeting card company.

Date Name Remarks
winter, date varies Chinese New Year The start of the new year in the lunar calendar, often associated with China or other Asian nations and a time to celebrate their cultures.
late winter, date varies Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday The exuberant days leading up to Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras in French close with Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in the Christian calendar.
February 2 Groundhog Day Prediction from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania groundhog on whether country will have six more weeks of winter.
February 14 Valentine's Day Traditional celebration of love and romance, including the exchange of of cards, candy, flowers, and other gifts.
March 17 St. Patrick's Day A celebration of Irish heritage and culture, based on the Catholic feast of St. Patrick. Primary activity is simply the wearing of green clothing ("wearing o' the green"), although drinking beer dyed green is also popular.
March 21 Earth Day A day used to promote environmentalism.
March 22 World Water Day A day to promote awareness of water.
April 1 April Fool's Day A day to play tricks on family, friends, and coworkers, if so inclined.
Spring Sunday, date varies Easter Celebrates the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus. For Christians, Easter is a day of religious services and the gathering of family. Many Americans follow old traditions of coloring hard-boiled eggs and giving children baskets of candy. On the next day, Easter Monday, the President of the United States holds an annual Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn for young children. The holiday is also often celebrated as a nonsectarian spring holiday. Not generally observed by most businesses. Some financial markets and other businesses close early on the Friday prior, Good Friday.
third Wednesday of April Administrative Professionals Day A day for honoring secretaries and other administrative personnel, formerly Secretaries Day.
April 22, date varies Earth Day A day used to promote environmentalism.
Spring, date varies Arbor Day A day for the planting of trees, commonly the last Friday of April but depending on the climate of the state.
May 5 Cinco de Mayo Ostensibly, a celebration of the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, but more generally a day for celebrating Mexican culture
May, second Sunday Mother's Day Honors mothers and motherhood (made a "Federal Holiday" by Presidential order, although Federal offices are already closed on Sundays)
May, third Saturday Armed Forces Day Celebrates the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps; formerly, each had separate days.
June 8 World Ocean Day A day to promote awareness of the world's Oceans and Seas.
June 14 Flag Day Honors the American flag, encourages citizens to fly the flag and study its traditions.
June 19 Juneteenth Primarily an African American holiday, honors the end of slavery in the United States.
June, third Sunday Father's Day Honors fathers and fatherhood.
depends on Hebrew calendar Rosh Hashanah Traditional beginning of the Jewish High Holidays.
depends on Hebrew calendar Yom Kippur Traditional end of and highest of the Jewish High Holidays.
October 31 Halloween Celebrates All Hallow's Eve, decorations include jack o'lanterns, costume wearing parties, and candy such as candy corn are also part of the holiday. Kids go trick-or-treating to neighbors who give away candy. Not generally observed by businesses.
first Tuesday after the first Monday in November Election Day Observed by the federal and state governments in applicable years; legal holiday in some states.
Saturday following November 9 Sadie Hawkins Day This was a day when women would ask men for dates, usually to a dance or other social, breaking with tradition.
November 1 through January 1 The Holiday season Non-offensive celebration of non-specific wintry holidays without reference to Christmas, Thanksgiving, Chanukkah, the winter solstice or other celebrations that occur in this season. Marked by snowflakes, exchanging of gifts and cards, holiday office parties, holiday trees, and singing songs about bells, snow, and togetherness. Generally a few days of holiday leave are granted by buisinesses in this season.
December 26 through January 1 Kwanzaa African American holiday celebration

State holidays

Insular area holidays

Main articles: Holidays in Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico day, July 25 (In Spanish: 25 de Julio, Conmemoración del ELA, or Conmemoración del Estado Libre Asociado)

Southern holidays

May or may not be legal holidays, depending on state law.

Other holidays locally observed

Non-holiday notable days

  • Super Tuesday (political event, variable)
  • Super Sunday (sports event, variable)
  • Tax Freedom Day (day in which an average citizen is said to have worked enough to pay his or her taxes for the year, used by opponents of taxation)
  • Tax Day (federal and state tax deadline, April 15 or if on weekend or holiday, next closest Monday)
  • Oktoberfest (celebrated most often in areas with contemporary or historic populations of German heritage)

Other holidays occasionally recognized

Obsolete holidays

See also

External links


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