Important American Holidays

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There are many special occasions that are celebrated in the U.S. both for religious and secular purposes. Here are the most popular ones. Most Americans would be thrilled to have you join them for any of these celebrations. Take the initiative. Let your American friend know that you would be interested in learning their customs. Both you and they will benefit.

January 1, 2008: New Year's Day [Jan. 1 every year]

  • The first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, widely celebrated as a public holiday.
  • A big day for family gatherings, meals together and watching football.

February 14 [every year]: Valentine’s Day

  • The Christian feast day of St. Valentine and the traditional day for sending a romantic card or gift, especially anonymously, to somebody you love.
  • Giving cards, gifts, flowers, or chocolate to your special one is expected.

March 23, 2008: Easter Sunday

  • The Christian festival commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated the Sunday following the full moon on or after March 21.
  • The holiday usually extends from Good Friday to Easter Monday.
  • Attendance at church is typical and many family gatherings follow.
  • Secular celebration includes “Easter baskets” full of Easter candy and “Easter egg hunts" for small children.

May 11, 2008: Mother's Day [2nd Sunday in May]

  • The second Sunday in May, when people traditionally give cards and presents to honor their mothers.
  • Phone call, card, flowers, or nice gift is customary.

May 26, 2008: Memorial Day (observed) [last Monday in May]

  • A public holiday to commemorate soldiers who died in war.
  • Marks the unofficial beginning of Summer for many.
  • Cook-outs and picnics as family gatherings are typical.

June 15, 2008: Father's Day [3rd Sunday in June]

  • Observed as a celebration of fatherhood.
  • Phone call, card or gift.

July 4, 2007: Independence Day [July 4 every year]

  • A national holiday to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
  • Fireworks after dark in large and small venues are typical.
  • Families and friends gather for cook-outs.

September 3, 2007: Labor Day [1st Monday in Sept]

  • A national holiday in September in honor of working people.
  • Marks the unofficial end of summer
  • Cook-outs and family gathering are typical.

October 31 [every year]: Halloween

  • The eve of All Saints’ Day originally celebrated by Celtic peoples
  • Children usually participate in “trick or treating” after dark. They visit neighbors in costumes and collect candy and treats.

November 22, 2007: Thanksgiving Day [4th Thursday in Nov]

  • Commemorates the feast given in thanks for the harvest by the Pilgrim colonists in 1621.
  • Families gather for a traditional turkey dinner with stuffing and “all the fixings”.
  • Over-eating and watching football on TV is common.

December 25, 2007: Christmas Day [Dec. 25 every year]

  • An annual Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
  • Gift exchange, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, caroling, the mistletoe, Yule log, and many customs accompany Christmas.
  • The holiday extends from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day for many Americans.

December 31 [every year]: New Year's Eve

  • The last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar
  • A big night for parties leading up to midnight
  • Times Square in New York City has the giant gathering and many Americans join them around midnight via television.