The United States observes holidays derived from events in US history, religious traditions, and national patriarchs. Thanksgiving has become a traditional American holiday which evolved from the custom of English pilgrims to “give thanks” for their welfare. Today, Thanksgiving is generally celebrated as a family reunion with a large afternoon feast. European colonization has led to many traditional Christian holidays such as Easter, Lent, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas to be observed albeit celebrated in a secular manner by many people today.
Independence Day (colloquially known as the Fourth of July) celebrates the anniversary of the country’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It is generally observed by parades throughout the day and the shooting of fireworks at night.
Halloween is thought to have evolved from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which was introduced in the American colonies by Irish settlers. It has become a holiday that is celebrated by children and teens who traditionally dress up in costumes and go door to door trick-or-treating for candy. It also brings about an emphasis on eerie and frightening urban legends and movies. The celebration of Halloween has become continuously popular among university students in the US. Both University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ohio University in Athens, Ohio are known across the US for their Halloween street fairs.
|January 1||New Year’s Day||Celebrates beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include counting down to midnight (12:00 AM) on the preceding night, New Year’s Eve. Traditional end of holiday season.|
|Third Monday in January||Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day||Honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader, who was actually born on January 15, 1929; combined with other holidays in several states.|
|January 20, the first January 20 following a Presidential election||Inauguration Day||Observed only by federal government employees in Washington D.C., and the border counties of Maryland and Virginia, in order to relieve congestion that occurs with this major event. Swearing-in of President of the United States and Vice President of the United States. 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). If Inauguration Day falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, the preceding Friday or following Monday is not a Federal Holiday|
|Third Monday in February||Washington’s Birthday||Washington’s Birthday was first declared a federal holiday by an 1879 act of Congress. The Uniform Holidays Act, 1968, shifted the date of the commemoration of Washington’s Birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Many people now refer to this holiday as “Presidents’ Day” and consider it a day honoring all American presidents. However, neither the Uniform Holidays Act nor any subsequent law changed the name of the holiday from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day.|
|Last Monday in May||Memorial Day||Honors the nation’s war dead from the Civil War onwards; marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season. (traditionally May 30, shifted by the Uniform Holidays Act 1968)|
|July 4||Independence Day||Celebrates Declaration of Independence, also called the Fourth of July.|
|First Monday in September||Labor Day||Celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement; marks the unofficial end of the summer season.|
|Second Monday in October||Columbus Day||Honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discoverer of the Americas. In some areas it is also a celebration of Italian culture and heritage. (traditionally October 12); celebrated as American Indian Heritage Day and Fraternal Day in Alabama; celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota. In Hawaii, it is celebrated as Discoverer’s Day, though is not an official state holiday.|
|November 11||Veterans Day||Honors all veterans of the United States armed forces. A traditional observation is a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. remembering those killed in war. (Commemorates the 1918 armistice, which began at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”)|
|Fourth Thursday in November||Thanksgiving Day||Traditionally celebrates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest. Traditionally includes the consumption of a turkey dinner. Traditional start of the holiday season.|
|December 25||Christmas||Celebrates the Nativity of Jesus. Some people consider aspects of this religious holiday, such as giving gifts and decorating a Christmas tree, to be secular rather than explicitly Christian.|