Celebrations and Holidays in the United States
share three national holidays with many countries: Easter Sunday,
Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Easter, which falls on a spring Sunday that varies from year to year, celebrates
the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 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.
Christmas Day, December 25, is another Christian holiday; it marks the birth
of the Christ Child. Decorating houses and yards with lights, putting up Christmas
trees, giving gifts, and sending greeting cards have become traditions even
for many non-Christian Americans.
Year's Day, of course, is January 1. The celebration of this
holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish
each other a happy and prosperous coming year.
UNIQUELY AMERICAN HOLIDAYS
Eight other holidays are uniquely American (although some of them have counterparts
in other nations). For most Americans, two of these stand out above the others
as occasions to cherish national origins: Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.
Day is the fourth Thursday in November, but many Americans
take a day of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day
weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit
family and friends. The holiday dates back to 1621, the year
after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to
practice their dissenting religion without interference.
a rough winter, in which about half of them died, they turned
for help to neighboring Indians, who taught them how to plant
corn and other crops. The next fall's bountiful harvest inspired
the Pilgrims to give thanks by holding a feast. The Thanksgiving
feast became a national tradition -- not only because so many
other Americans have found prosperity but also because the
Pilgrims' sacrifices for their freedom still captivate the
imagination. To this day, Thanksgiving dinner almost always
includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast
turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie. Before the
meal begins, families or friends usually pause to give thanks
for their blessings, including the joy of being united for
Fourth of July, or Independence Day, honors the nation's birthday
-- the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4,
1776. It is a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night
of concerts and fireworks. The flying of the American flag
(which also occurs on Memorial Day and other holidays) is widespread.
On July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of
Independence was marked by grand festivals across the nation.
Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, there are six other uniquely
Luther King Day: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African-American
clergyman, is considered a great American because of his tireless
efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent
means. Since his assassination in 1968, memorial services have
marked his birthday on January 15. In 1986, that day was replaced
by the third Monday of January, which was declared a national
Day: Until the mid-1970s, the February 22 birthday of George
Washington, hero of the Revolutionary War and first president
of the United States, was a national holiday. In addition,
the February 12 birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the president
during the Civil War, was a holiday in most states. The two
days have been joined, and the holiday has been expanded to
embrace all past presidents. It is celebrated on the third
Monday in February.
Day: Celebrated on the fourth Monday of May, this holiday honors
the dead. Although it originated in the aftermath of the Civil
War, it has become a day on which the dead of all wars, and
the dead generally, are remembered in special programs held
in cemeteries, churches, and other public meeting places.
Day: The first Monday of September, this holiday honors the
nation's working people, typically with parades. For most Americans
it marks the end of the summer vacation season, and for many
students the opening of the school year.
Day: On October 12, 1492, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus
landed in the New World. Although most other nations of the
Americas observe this holiday on October 12, in the United
States it takes place on the second Monday in October.
Veterans Day: Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday was established
to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It falls on November 11,
the day when that war ended in 1918, but it now honors veterans of all wars
in which the United States has fought. Veterans' organizations hold parades,
and the president customarily places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at
Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
While not holidays, two other days of the year inspire colorful celebrations
in the United States. On February 14, Valentine's Day, (named after an early
Christian martyr), Americans give presents, usually candy or flowers, to the
ones they love. On October 31, Halloween (the evening before All Saints or
All Hallows Day), American children dress up in funny or scary costumes and
go "trick or treating": knocking on doors in their neighborhood.
The neighbors are expected to respond by giving them small gifts of candy or
money. Adults may also dress in costume for Halloween parties.
ethnic groups in America celebrate days with special meaning
to them even though these are not national holidays.
for example, observe their high holy days in September, and
most employers show consideration by allowing them to take
these days off.
Americans celebrate the old country's patron saint, St. Patrick,
on March 17; this is a high-spirited day on which many Americans
wear green clothing in honor of the "Emerald Isle."
celebration of Mardi Gras -- the day before the Christian season
of Lent begins in late winter -- is a big occasion in New Orleans,
Louisiana, where huge parades and wild revels take place. As
its French name implies (Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday," the
last day of hearty eating before the penitential season of
Lent), the tradition goes back to the city's settlement by
French immigrants. There are many other such ethnic celebrations,
and New York City is particularly rich in them.
should be noted that, with the many levels of American government,
confusion can arise as to what public and private facilities
are open on a given holiday. The daily newspaper is a good
source of general information, but visitors who are in doubt
should call for information ahead
Department of State – Info USA