Holidays in the United States of America

You can thumb through an ordinary calendar and discover many special days i.e. "minor holidays" which are observed by a relatively small number of people or by a particular interest group. For example, "Girl Scouts' Birthday" (March 12), "Citizenship Day" (September 17), "United Nations Day" (October 24) would have limited observance. "Hog Callers' Day" would have even less.

Events involving famous Americans, living or dead, have a wider appeal. Many Americans may have forgotten the exact date when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (November 22, 1963), but they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first learned about his tragic death. Other days commemorate events which may be personally significant for one generation but have less relevance for another. For example, Pearl Harbor Day (December 7) marks the day when Japanese Imperial Forces attacked Hawaii in 1941 and brought the US into World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his address to the nation referred to the attack as "a day that will live in infamy". Adults and children of the time have a personal recollection of the day. The younger generations of today may know of the event from their history books only.

Other holidays such as "Groundhog Day" (February 2) are whimsically observed, at least in the media. The day is associated with folklore which has grown up in rural America. It is believed, by some, if the groundhog, or woodchuck comes out of its hole in the ground and sees its shadow on that day it will become frightened and jump back in. This means there will be at least six more weeks of winter. If it doesn't see its shadow, it will not be afraid and spring will begin shortly.

Critics of the proliferation of holidays point an accusing finger at greeting card manufacturers and other entrepreneurs. The critics say that "Holiday X" is simply promoted to get people to buy their wares. "Secretary's Day", or "Grandparents Day" might fall into this category.

Obviously, no effort has been made to be comprehensive in treating all holidays that Americans would possibly celebrate. Only "major" holidays, recognized if not celebrated by Americans in general, have been included here. Each unit is introduced by a reading the passage about the background of the American holiday or celebration. When relevant, a speech, song, or poem pertaining to the holiday follows. There might be a special feature about the holiday, such as regional or religious factors which make the celebration different.

Other Widely Celebrated Observances, that usually don't affect work schedules

Groundhog Day

February, 2

Lincoln's Birthday

February, 12

Valentine's Day

February, 14

Washington's Birthday

February, 22

St. Patrick's Day


April Fools's Day

April, 1

Earth Day

April, 22 (since 1970)

Administrative Assistants' Day

Wednesday of the last full week of April (that is, the Wednesday before the last Saturday in April) since 1955

Arbour Day

the last Friday in April (since 1872)

Mothers' Day

second Sunday in May

Fathers' Day

third Sunday in June

Parents' Day

fourth Sunday in July

Grandparents' Day

Sunday after Labor Day

United Nations Day

October, 24


October, 31

2.New Year’s Day

The beginning of the New Year has been welcomed on different dates throughout history. Great Britain and its colonies in America adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, in which January 1st was restored as New Year's Day. Ways of celebrating differ as well, according to customs and religions of the world. People in Moslem societies, for example, celebrate the New Year by wearing new clothes. Southeast Asians release birds and turtles to assure themselves good luck in the twelve months ahead. Jewish people consider the day holy, and hold a religious ceremony at a meal with special foods. Hindus of India leave shrines next to their beds, so they can see beautiful objects at the start of the New Year. Japanese prepare rice cakes at a social event the week before the New Year.

Whatever the custom, most of people feel the same sentiment. With a new year, we can expect a new life. We wish each other good luck and promise ourselves to do better in the following year.

In the United States, the federal holiday is January first, but Americans begin celebrating on December 31. Sometimes people have masquerade balls, where guests dress up in costumes and cover their faces with masks. According to an old tradition, guests unmask at midnight.

At New Year's Eve parties across the United States on December 31, many guests watch television as part of the festivities. Most of the television channels show Times Square in the heart of New York City. At one minute before midnight, a lighted ball drops slowly from the top to the bottom of a pole on one of the buildings. People count down at the same time as the ball drops. When it reaches the bottom, the New Year sign is lighted. People hug and kiss, and wish each other "Happy New Year!"

On January first, Americans visit friends, relatives and neighbours. There is plenty to eat and drink when you just drop in to wish your loved ones and friends the best for the year ahead. Many families and friends watch television together enjoying the Tournament of Roses parade preceding the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena California. The parade was started in 1887, when a zoologist who had seen one in France suggested to the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, California that they sponsor "an artistic celebration of the ripening of the oranges" at the beginning of the year. At first the parade was a line of decorated horse-drawn private carriages. Athletic events were held in the afternoon, and in the evening, a ball where winners of the events of the day and the most beautiful float were announced. In later years colleges began to compete in football games on New Year's Day, and these gradually replaced other athletic competitions. The parade of floats grew longer from year to year, and flower decorations grew more elaborate.

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