Holiday

Holiday
Holiday

American Holidays is an introductory survey of the historical and social background of American holidays. People in every culture celebrate holidays. Although the word “holiday” literally means “holy day,” most American holidays are not religious, but commemorative in nature and origin. Because the nation is blessed with rich ethnic heritage it is possible to trace some of the American holidays to diverse cultural sources and traditions, but all holidays have taken on a distinctively American flavor. In the United States, the word “holiday” is synonymous with “celebration! ”

In the strict sense, there are no federal (national) holidays in the United States. Each of the 50 states has jurisdiction over its holidays. In practice, however, most states observe the federal (“legal or public “) holidays, even though the President and Congress can legally designate holidays only for federal government employees.

The following ten holidays per year are proclaimed by the federal government.

New Year’s Day January 1
  Martin Luther King Day   Third Monday in January
President’s Day Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day July 4
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day November 11
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day December 25

Federal holidays are observed according to the legislation of individual states. The dates of these holidays, and others, are decided upon by each state government, not by the federal (national) government. Each state can agree on the same date that the President has proclaimed, such as Thanksgiving Day. State legislation can also change the date of a holiday for its own special commemoration. Cities and towns can decide not to celebrate a federal legal holiday at all. However, the majority of the states (and the cities and towns within them) usually choose the date or day celebrated by the rest of the nation. There are other “legal” or “public” holidays which are observed at the state or local level. The closing of local government offices and businesses will vary. Whether citizens have the day off from work or not depends on local decisions.In 1971, the dates of many federal holidays were officially moved to the nearest Monday by then-President Richard Nixon. There are five holidays which are not necessarily celebrated on Mondays: Thanksgiving Day, Veterans Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Christmas Day. When New Year’s Day, Independence Day, or Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, the next day is also a holiday. When one of these holidays falls on a Saturday, the previous day is also a holiday. Federal government offices, including the post office, are always closed on all federal holidays. Schools and businesses close on major holidays like Independence Day and Christmas Day but may not always be closed, for example, on President’s Day or Veterans Day.

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day

The 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.

President’s Day

President’s 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.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

This 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.

Independence Day (July 4)

Independence Day (July 4)

Independence 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.

Labor Day

Labor Day

This 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.

Columbus Day

Columbus 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 Day

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.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 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.

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas is a most important religious holy day for Christians, who attend special church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Ethnic and Religious Observances

Ethnic and Religious Observances

The United States is a nation of many religions and ethnic groups. Many of these have feast days, holy days or special customs related to their religion or to their nation of origin.

Other Celebrations (Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day etc.)

Other Celebrations (Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day etc.)

Although the United States is young compared to other countries, its culture and traditions are rich because of the contributions made by the many groups of people who have come to its shores over the past two centuries.

Halloween

Halloween

Halloween, the last day of October, has a special significance for children, who dress in funny or ghostly costumes and knock on neighborhood doors shouting “Trick or Treat!” Pirates and princesses, ghosts and witches all hold bags open to catch the candy or other goodies that the neighbors drop in.