Holidays in the United States
- New Year's Day
Monday - Martin Luther King Day
Monday - President’s Day
Monday - Memorial Day
- Independence Day
Monday - Labor Day
Monday - Columbus Day
Monday - Veterans Day
fourth Thursday - Thanksgiving Day
25th - Christmas Day
for each holliday
New Year's Day - January 1
Martin Luther King Day - third Monday in January
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a black clergyman who
is ranked among the greatest of black Americans because of his
crusade to win full civil rights for his people. Preaching nonviolence,
much in the same way as had Mahatma Gandhi of India, Martin Luther
King, Jr. spoke and campaigned tirelessly to rid the United States
of traditions and laws that forced on black Americans the status
of second-class citizens. Among these laws were those in some
states which required black people to take back seats in buses
or which obstructed voting by blacks.
the late 1950s and early 1960s, African Americans, led by Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., used boycotts, marches, and other
forms of nonviolent protest to demand equal treatment under
the law and an end to racial prejudice. A high point of this
civil rights movement came on August 28, 1963, when more than
200,000 people of all races gathered in front of the Lincoln
Memorial in Washington, D.C., to hear King say: "I have
a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of
former slaves and the sons of former slaveholders will be able
to sit down together at the table of brotherhood....I have
a dream that my four little children will one day live in a
nation where they will not be judged by the color of their
skin, but by the content of their character."
long afterwards the U.S. Congress passed laws prohibiting discrimination
in voting, education, employment, housing, and public accommodations.
world was shocked when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Ever
since, special memorial services have marked his birthday on
January 15. By vote of Congress, the third Monday of every
January, beginning in 1986, is now a federal holiday in Dr.
President’s Day - third Monday in February
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.
addition, the February 12 birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the
president during the Civil War (1861-1865), was a holiday in
the 1970s, Congress declared that in order to honor all past
presidents of the United States, a single holiday, to be called
President's Day, would be observed on the third Monday in February.
In many states, however, the holiday continues to be known
as George Washington's birthday.
Memorial Day - last Monday in May
holiday, on the fourth Monday of every May, is a day on which
Americans honor the dead. Originally a day on which flags and
flowers were placed on graves of soldiers who died in the American
Civil War, it has become a day on which the dead of all wars
and all other dead are remembered the same way.
1971, along with other holidays, President Richard Nixon declared
Memorial Day a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. Cities
all around the United States hold their own ceremonies on the
last Monday in May to pay respect to the men and women who
have died in wars or in the service of their country. In many
communities, special ceremonies are held in cemeteries or at
monuments for the war dead by veterans of military services.
Some hold parades and others hold memorial services or special
programs in churches, schools or other public meeting places.
Day is not limited to honor only those Americans from the armed
forces. It is also a day for personal remembrance. Families
and individuals honor the memories of their loved ones who
have died. Church services, visits to the cemetery, flowers
on graves or even silent tribute mark the day with dignity
Memorial Day, the President or Vice President of the United
States gives a speech and lays a wreath on the tombs. Members
of the armed forces shoot a rifle salute in the air. Veterans
and families come to lay their own wreaths and say prayers.
It is a day of reflection.
day also signals the beginning of summer with a three-day weekend
to spend at the beach, in the mountains or at home relaxing.
Independence Day - July 4
Day is regarded as the birthday of the United States as a free
and independent nation. Most Americans simply call it the "Fourth
of July," on which date it always falls.
holiday recalls the signing of the Declaration of Independence
on July 4, 1776. At that time, the people of the 13 British
colonies located along the eastern coast of what is now the
United States were involved in a war over what they considered
unjust treatment by the king and parliament in Britain. The
war began in 1775. As the war continued, the colonists realized
that they were fighting not just for better treatment; they
were fighting for freedom from England's rule. The Declaration
of Independence, signed by leaders from the colonies, stated
this clearly, and for the first time in an official document
the colonies were referred to as the United States of America.
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.
Labor Day - first Monday in September
holiday, which always is observed on the first Monday of September
has been a federal holiday since 1894, but was observed in some
places before that day as a result of a campaign by an early
organization of workers called the Knights of Labor. Its purpose
is to honor the nation's working people. In many cities the day
is marked by parades of working people representing the labor
Americans consider Labor Day the end of the summer, and the
beaches and other popular resort areas are packed with people
enjoying one last three-day weekend. For many students it marks
the opening of the school year.
Columbus Day - second Monday in October
day commemorates Italian navigator Christopher Columbus' landing
in the New World on October 12, 1492. Most nations of the Americas
observe this holiday on October 12, but in the United States,
annual observances take place on the second Monday in October.
The major celebration of the day takes place in New York City,
which holds a huge parade each year.
Veterans Day - second Monday in November
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.
organizations hold parades or other special ceremonies, 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.
Thanksgiving Day - fourth Thursday in November
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
holiday dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived
in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion
without interference. After 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.
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
To this day, Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods served
at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
Before the meal begins, families or friends usually pause to give thanks for
their blessings, including the joy of being united for the occasion.
- A member of a group of English Protestants who in the 16th
and 17th centuries advocated strict religious discipline along
with simplification of the ceremonies and creeds of the Church
Christmas Day - December 25
is a most important religious holy day for Christians, who attend
special church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Because it is a religious holiday, it is not an official holiday.
However, since most Americans are Christian, the day is one on
which most businesses are closed and the greatest possible number
of workers, including government employees, have the day off.
Many places even close early on the day before.
Christians observe Christmas according to the traditions of
their particular church. Besides the strictly religious traditions,
however, other common Christmas practices are observed by people
who are not religious or who are not Christian. In this way,
some Christmas traditions have become American traditions.
is so common at Christmas time that for most stores it means
a sharp increase in sales. Stores, in fact, are full of shoppers
from Thanksgiving time in late November until the day before
Christmas. This situation has caused many religious people
to complain that the religious meaning of Christmas is being
subverted, that Christmas has become "commercial." Despite
the criticism, Christmas shopping is a major activity of many
Americans in the month of December. Gifts are given to children,
members of the family and close friends. They are given to
people who have done favors to others or who work for them.
Some people bake cookies or make candies or other special food
treats for friends and neighbors. Many businesses give their
workers a Christmas "bonus" - gifts of extra money
- to show appreciation for their work. Christmas is also a
time when most Americans show great generosity to other less
fortunate than they. They send money to hospitals or orphanages
or contribute to funds that help the poor.
Americans send greeting cards to their friends and family at
Christmas time. Some people who are friends or relatives and
live great distances from each other may not be much in contact
with each other during year - but will usually exchange greeting
cards and often a Christmas letter telling their family news.
decorating of homes for Christmas is very common. Most American
who observe Christmas have a Christmas tree in their homes.
This may be a real evergreen tree or an artificial one. In
either case, the tree is decorated and trimmed with small lights
and ornaments. Other decorations such as lights and wreaths
of evergreen and signs wishing a "Merry Christmas" can
be found inside and outside of many homes.
Holidays may have a religious
or non-religious origin. In either case, they provide an opportunity
to reflect on the day's significance and enrich our lives.
Federal employees work on a Monday through Friday schedule.
When a holiday
falls on a non-workday -- Saturday or Sunday
Saturday holiday - observed on Friday
Sunday holiday - observed on Monday
Department of State – Info USA