U.S. American Holidays
Knowing the public holidays of a country is knowing a piece of their history and culture. U.S. American holidays are no different. Like holidays in other countries, these days commemorate events, ideas, and people that are of particular historic importance.
You’re probably already familiar with some American holidays on our list, such as Thanksgiving or Independence Day, but have you ever heard of Memorial Day? In this article, we’ll go through all the official holidays in the United States in chronological order. We’ll limit ourselves to the national holidays that only exist in America and therefore exclude Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which are, of course, popularly celebrated in western countries.
Public Holidays in the USA
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King Day is observed every year on the third Monday of January. It’s a national holiday and a remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. life and work. He was a Civil Rights Movement leader who fought against oppression and injustices against African American society in the 1950s and 1960s until his assassination in 1963. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s, he was the most famous civil rights leader in the United States and remains so until this day.
The United States celebrates President’s Day on the third Monday in February by honoring the lives and work of the various presidents of America’s past.
Initially, this American holiday was known as “Washington’s Birthday,” and thus took place on February 22nd, the birthday of the first president, George Washington. Other states still celebrate the birthday of the 17th president, Abraham Lincoln, on February 12th. As a result, Congress decided to create a holiday to honor all U.S. presidents.
Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of May. It’s a day of remembrance in honor of the fallen soldiers who fought for their country. The origins of this holiday go back to the American Civil War (1861-1865). At first, it was only for those who died during this time. However, starting after the Second World War, the holiday honored all fallen soldiers.
Every year, Americans visit the many military cemeteries and memorials in the U.S. You will also see the American flag flown everywhere at half-mast until noon. Volunteers and individuals place small flags and flowers on the graves of soldiers.
Juneteenth National Independence Day
Juneteenth National Independence Day falls on June 19th and is one of the newest federally recognized American holidays, introduced in 2021. It’s a holiday commemorating the liberation of African Americans from enslavement.
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln, the 17th President of the United States, issued the final Emancipation Proclamation. This document declared all enslaved persons within the Confederacy to be free. However, it did not immediately follow that all people were actually freed after this proclamation. Enslavement continued in the south for more than two years. It took Union soldiers marching into Texas on June 19, 1865, to finally declare all 250,000 enslaved people in the state to be free.
Independence Day, or the 4th of July, is probably one of the most well-known American holidays. Since 1776, America has celebrated its birthday and independence from the British on this day. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, officially naming the Thirteen Colonies the United States of America for the first time.
Many people traditionally make 4th of July picnics or neighborhood parties to watch the firework displays together. Parades and the raising of the flag are also among the typical traditions. You would probably hear the national anthem and see red, white, and blue everywhere.
American Labor Day is comparable to International Workers’ Day on May 1st. However, in the USA, the day is always on the first Monday of September. Since 1984, Labor Day has been a federal holiday in the USA and Canada, where all laborers get the day off. It serves as a remembrance, demonstration, celebration, and thanks to all workers.
Columbus Day is on the second Monday in October since President Benjamin Harrison declared it a national holiday in 1892. The day is meant to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in 1492 and is often celebrated with boisterous parades and patriotic speeches. Columbus Day is a state holiday in 22 states and a federal holiday in 28 states.
While many see Columbus’ arrival to be one worth celebrating, others recognize that this historical moment led to the settlement of Europeans and the subsequent demise of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Many people see Columbus Day as a reminder of forced colonization, oppression, and devastation of Native Americans. For this reason, some states celebrate Indigenous People’s Day as an alternative to Columbus Day. Indigenous People’s Day is a state observance in 30 states and a state holiday in three states, as well as Washington, D.C.
Veterans Day is similar to Memorial Day, but it is on November 11th. On this day, many people show their gratitude to veterans of war, often times by verbally thanking them. Parades across the country honor the soldiers, and the current president places a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, symbolizing all the unknown soldiers who are serving or have fought for their country.
Thanksgiving is one of the most well-known American holidays and is celebrated every year on the fourth Thursday of November. As one of the most important family holidays of the year, families and friends gather to spend the evening together.
The focal point is the huge family dinner, which usually takes place in the evening. Traditionally, a turkey is stuffed, roasted, and then served with other side dishes such as sweet potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. You could whet your sweet tooth with apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert. Before the meal, people either say a prayer of thanks or share what they were thankful for this past year. Schools and some businesses close for 4 to 5 days to allow all Americans to visit their families.
As you can see, there are many more American holidays in the USA than you might think. We especially recommend traveling to America during Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, because during that time you can admire the decorations and experience the many parades.