List of American (USA) Holidays and Celebrations
Many Americans spend holidays with their friends and family, enjoying food, parades, and games (both televised and otherwise). Though this country is still less than 250 years old, they have made up for their youth with an assortment of holidays that they love to celebrate.
New Year's Day: January 1 (and New Year's Eve: December 31)
Americans celebrate New Years Day just as many other countries do, though they do have a few customs that are their own.
At midnight between December 31 and January 1, many Americans flood the area of Times Square, Manhattan, New York to "watch the ball drop." This special ball is made of crystal and electric lights. It hangs on a pole that is 77 feet (23 meters) high until 11:59 PM December 31, when it slowly begins to descend the pole until exactly midnight. Many other towns have their own version of the ball-drop, but most Americans who watch it do so on television, as it has been televised every year since 1907 (except during World War II).
Many Americans also watch the Rose Bowl, an American football game held in Pasadena, CA. This Bowl pits two college teams together and is the highest attended college football game every year.
Though New Year's Day is a popular holiday, many people may still have to work, and many more will return to work on January 2. Schools, banks, and federal institutions are usually closed.
Inauguration Day: January 20
Inauguration Day only occurs once every four years when the new or current president is inaugurated into office. This day will only change if it happens to be on a Sunday. In those cases, the following Monday is Inauguration Day.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Third Monday of January
On the third Monday of January, Americans remember the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for equal rights.
Martin Luther King Junior (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister who was a leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He believed in advancing civil rights in a non-violent manner and received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his efforts. Unfortunately, he was assassinated, and many riots broke out because of his violent death.
His "I have a dream" speech is well-known and well-loved among many.
Groundhog Day: February 2
Groundhog Day is a holiday on which a groundhog apparently comes out of his hole in the ground to decide when spring will begin. If he is frightened by his shadow, he will retreat into his hole, and there will be six more weeks of winter.
Super Bowl Sunday: First Sunday in February
On this day, Americans gather to watch the Super Bowl, the championship of professional American football. Many others watch the game to enjoy the commercials as many companies vie to have the wittiest commercial.
Valentine's Day: February 14
Valentine's Day in America is celebrated with the giving of flowers and chocolates. It is considered a romantic holiday. Many children in school create (or purchase) valentines for each other. The symbol of Valentine's Day is typically a heart.
Presidents' Day: Third Monday in February
On the third Monday of February, Americans celebrate Presidents' Day in honor of the first president, George Washington's birthday (born on February 22, 1732). It is typically remembered in schools, but not overly celebrated.
St. Patrick's Day: March 17
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, many people dress in green and pinch those who don't. Others go to Irish pubs to drink beer. Interestingly, many (if not most) Americans celebrate the day, but don't know much about the man for which the day is celebrated.
Easter: Varies Based on Moon and Spring Equinox
In celebration of Easter, many families in the United States go to church in honor of the day Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Those who don't go to church (and even those who do) also celebrate by coloring eggs, having Easter egg hunts, and celebrating the Easter bunny (who hides baskets of treats for children).
April Fool's Day: April 1
Americans tend to celebrate April Fool's Day by playing tricks and pranks on each other and then declaring "April Fools!" Pranks can range from simple to elaborate, and many companies join the fun by advertising fake products or services for the day.
Earth Day: April 22
A day where Americans celebrate the earth and oceans. On this day, many communities, businesses, and schools will work together to do community service by cleaning their neighborhoods, roads, and parks of debris.
It is also a good day to remember the importance of recycling.
Administrative Professionals' Day (Secretaries' Day): Wednesday of the Last Full Week of April
This is the day that many administrators show appreciation to those who make their lives easier at the office by giving gifts to their assistants.
Nurses' Day: May 6
A day to thank nurses for their hard work in doctors' offices and hospitals. Unfortunately, this day isn't celebrated nearly enough as nurses often go without thanks for their work.
National Day of Prayer: First Thursday in May
On this day, many people gather together to pray for their country, family, or themselves.
Mother's Day: Second Sunday in May
Mother's Day is a day set aside to celebrate those who gave birth to us. Though traditions will vary from family to family, many Americans give their mothers chocolates, flowers, and jewelry or take her out to lunch. Others may make her breakfast and serve it to her while she is still in her bed.
Armed Forces Day
For remembrance and honor of both living and dead soldiers of the armed forces.
Juneteenth (Liberation of Slaves): June 19
Juneteenth is a state holiday that is recognized by 32 of the 50 states. It celebrates when the African-American slaves were set free.
Father's Day: Third Sunday in June
This day is set aside to celebrate fathers. As with Mother's Day, traditions will vary from family to family, but many people choose to celebrate by having a barbecue dinner and possibly playing some sort of sport in the park.
Though Memorial Day is set aside to remember ancestors—especially those who have fallen in battle, most Americans seem to equate the day to beaches, barbecues, and the first "three-day weekend" of summer.
That being said, most cities and towns do have ceremonies (many of which are held in cemeteries) within their town to celebrate those who have fallen in battle. Families who have lost someone dear to them (especially if they were lost recently) may go to the cemetery to "spend time" with their loved one; while others who haven't felt the sting of death may visit to pay respects to unknown fallen soldiers.
Independence Day: July 4
On this day, Americans celebrate the day they became an independent nation. Many go to parades and watch fireworks at night. Some communities also hold picnics and other festivities for the locals to attend. Many families will eat hamburgers, hot dogs, or other grilled food in celebration.
Parents' Day: Fourth Sunday in July
A day for celebrating both of your parents.
Friendship Day: First Sunday in August
On this day, people spend time with a friend they would like to honor as a good friend.
Labor Day: First Monday in September
Most Americans celebrate this holiday as the end of summer, rather than for historical reasons.
Grandparent's Day: Sunday After Labor Day
A day dedicated to celebrating grandparents. Many families gather together to have picnics or dinners.
Citizenship Day (Constitution Day): September 17
Citizenship day marks the anniversary of when the constitution was ratified.
National Children's Day: Second Sunday in October
A day for celebrating children.
Columbus Day: Second Monday in October
Celebrates the day that Christopher Columbus "discovered" North America in 1492.
Bosses' Day: October 16
On this day, some employess show appreciation to their bosses by giving them small gifts.
Sweetest Day: Third Saturday in October
A day for spreading joy and happiness to those who are in need.
Mother-in-Law's Day: October 26
A day to celebrate your mother-in-law (much like Mother's Day).
Navy Day: October 27
A day to celebrate the United States Navy.
Halloween: October 31
Halloween is often celebrated by children dressing up as fantasy characters and going door-to-door to ask for candy by saying "Trick or Treat." In more recent years, many communities will have a select location for children to go to collect candy from stores, churches, or other businesses.
Depending on the community, families may attend hay mazes, haunted houses, or other events to celebrate the holiday. Families also often hold Halloween parties in their homes.
Decorations for Halloween include fake spider webs, fake tombstones, and jack-o-lanterns (a face carved into a pumpkin).
People who don't celebrate "Halloween" will sometimes celebrate a "Harvest Day" or a similar event.
Veterans' Day: November 11
A day for honoring those who have served in the war, either alive or dead. Though many businesses remain open for this day, most federal buildings, schools, and banks are closed.
Thanksgiving: Fourth Thursday in November
A day for remembrance and thankfulness. In commemoration of the pilgrims' first holiday with the Native Americans. Many Americans get together with their families for a large meal (typically a turkey dinner) and recite things for which they are thankful.
Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication. It is an eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates the rededication of the temple in the second century BC. The holiday is celebrated by lighting candles on a unique nine-branched candelabrum. Children also often play with a dreidel in a fun and unique game.
Christmas Eve/Christmas Day: December 24-25
Many Americans go to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. They also celebrate Christmas by opening presents that are placed under a Christmas tree on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (the legend says Santa Claus is the man who puts the gifts under the tree). Many families also spend a lot of time and energy decorating their houses, both inside and out; and many communities even have competitions for the best-decorated house.
Kwanzaa: December 26-31
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration to celebrate the culture of African Americans and that of their ancestors. The holiday was created to help African Americans reconnect with their African heritage. The celebration typically ends with a feast and the exchange of gifts amongst friends and family.