Holidays in the U.S.American Holidays
New Year's Day is on January 1st. The celebration of this holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous new year. Many Americans also make New Year's Resolutions. These resolutions are something like pacts that people mean to keep or uphold over the next year. A New Year’s traditon is gathering in front of the TV 10 seconds before midnght, and watching the New Year’s Ball drop in Times Square in New York. A lot of people even travel to New York to count off the last 10 seconds in the midst of the action. Another New Year’s tradition is to give a kiss to your special someone as the clock strikes midnight.
Martin Luther King Day is the third Monday in January. It is the day of the remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend M. L. K. Jr. was an African-American clergyman, who is recognized for his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means. He is especially famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, where he speaks about his visions of equality for whites, blacks, and all people alike. Unfortunately, he was assassinated on April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His famous words and actions live on though.
Groundhog Day, on February 2nd, brings the most-watched weather forecast of the year, and the only one led by a rodent. Legend has it that on this morning, if a groundhog can see its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it cannot see its shadow, spring is on the way.
Presidents' Day is the common name for the U.S. federal holiday officially designated as Washington's Birthday. It is celebrated on the third Monday of February. The Washington’s Birthday holiday was originally established to honor the contributions of the first president of the U.S., but it has become commonplace for Americans to celebrate the legacies of all past presidents on this day. Shortly before, on February 12th, is Lincoln’s Day. This day honors the birth of Abraham Lincoln. February is an exciting month, because students often get to enjoy two four-day weeks in a row.
Valentine's Day is celebrated on February 14th. The day was named after an early Christian martyr named St. Valentine. On Valentine’s Day, Americans give presents like candy or flowers to the ones they love. The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines." Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrates Saint Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland, and is generally celebrated on March 17th. In the United States, it is widely celebrated but is not an official holiday. Americans widely associate St. Patrick’s Day with the color green. If someone does not wear green on this day, they get pinched. The only thing that can save someone from a pinch, is to be Irish. A St. Patrick’s Day symbol is a three-leafed clover. Sometimes, parades are held on this day, and Chicago dyes its river green.
April Fools' Day on April 1st, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar. April Fools' Day is observed throughout the Western world. Practices include sending someone on a "fool's errand," looking for things that don't exist, playing pranks, and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.
Mardi Gras, meaning "Fat Tuesday," is traditionally the last day for Catholics to indulge or often overindulge before Ash Wednesday starts the sober weeks of fasting that come with Lent. In the United States, Mardi Gras draws millions of fun-seekers to New Orleans every year. Mardi Gras has been celebrated in New Orleans on a grand scale, with masked balls and colorful parades, since French settlers arrived in the early 1700s. Hidden behind masks, people behaved so raucously that for decades in the early 19th century, masks were deemed illegal in the party-loving city. Traditions on this day are parades filled with colorful floats, which have people throwing out colorful Mardi Gras beads, dubloons, candy, and confetti to onlookers.
Easter falls on a spring Sunday that varies from year to year. It is a Christian holiday celebrating 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, holding egg hunts, and giving children baskets of candy which are supposedly from the Easter Bunny.
Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, is a day for tortilla chips and salsa. Although it is often referred to as Mexico's Independence Day, Cinco de Mayo actually marks the 1862 battle in Puebla when a small, outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French. Though this is more of a Mexican holiday, Americans have adopted it and made it more of a holiday in the U.S. than in Mexico.
Mother's Day, held on the second Sunday in May, is a day honoring mothers. It is celebrated on various days in many places around the world. Mothers often receive gifts or cards on this day. It complements Father's Day. In the United States it originated in 1872 with Julia Ward Howe, a writer, abolitionist, and suffragist who wrote the words to "Battle Hymn of the Republic." In 1911, President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday.
Memorial Day is held on the fourth Monday of May. It originally honored the people killed in the American Civil War, but 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. The flying of the American flag is widespread on this day. It is also common for children to have the day off from school.
Flag Day, on June 14th, is when Americans celebrate the adoption of the first national flag. Also known as the "Stars and Stripes" or "Old Glory," the first American flag was approved by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. In 1818, after 5 more states joined the Union, Congress passed legislation fixing the number of stripes at 13 to represent the founding colonies, and requiring that the number of stars equal the number of states. This is a day when flag etiquette is often discussed in the classroom.
Father's Day is observed on the third Sunday in June. The exact origin of the holiday is not clear, but it was first celebrated on June 19th, 1910, in Spokane, Washington. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation making Father's Day official. Similar to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is a day to honor father’s and give them gifts. Grandparents’ Day exists as well, and it is held on the first Sunday after Labor Day.
Independence Day is held on July 4th. This holiday 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, and a night of concerts and fireworks. The flying of the American flag is common, and the holiday can also be called Red, White, and Blue Day.
Labor Day is 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 the start of the school year. In California, school always starts the Thursday after Labor Day.
Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. The day commemorates October 12, 1492, when the Italian navigator ,Christopher Columbus, landed in the New World.
Halloween is celebrated on October 31st. On Halloween, American children dress up in funny or scary costumes and go "trick or treating" by knocking on doors in their neighborhood. The neighbors are expected to respond by giving them small gifts of candy or money. Trick or treating is usually done in the evening after dark. Many peopl decorate their lawns or front yards with fake gravestones, skeletons, fog machines, or other such spooky halloween decorations. It is a tradition to carve a Jack-o-Lantern and put it in front of your door ti spook people on All Hallows Eve. Some children even go dressed up to school, where there are pumpkin carving and costume contests.
Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11th. Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday was established to honor Americans who had served in World War I, but it now honors veterans of all wars in which the U.S. has fought. Veterans' organizations hold parades, and the president places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November. The holiday dates back to 1621, when Puritans, who had just enjoyed a bountiful harvest, showed their gratitude to the Native Americans for their help by hosting a feast to give thanks. The Thanksgiving feast became a national tradition and almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and pumpkin pie. During the time of Thanksgiving, school isn’t held from Wednesday until Friday. This is a time when many people travel to visit their relatives, or invite friends over for the traditional “turkey dinner.” Of course, some people don’t like to cook so much food, so they go to restaurants. Other Thanksgiving foods are sweet potatoes with marshmallows, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, and cornbread. After Thanksgiving, it is common to have leftovers which may haunt you in the form of turkey sandwiches for days.
Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25th. Christmas is a Christian holiday marking the birth of Jesus Christ. 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. In America, the morning of Christmas Day is when children get to open their presents from Santa Claus. They can also find out wether he ate the milk and cookies that they left for him. The day preceding Christmas Day is Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is when many families usually have a big dinner similar to that of Thanksgiving Day.