US holidays & celebrations

The United States has a multitude of holidays and celebrations throughout the year, generally originating from events in history, religious traditions, and national heroes.

Federal holidays

The following holidays are federal holidays, so workers across the whole of the US are given a day off to celebrate!

New Year's Day: January 1

New Year's Day is of course preceded by New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31st. New York has perhaps the most famous New Year’s Eve party of all in Times Square, where a giant crystal ball descends (known as the “ball drop”) just before the stroke of midnight, followed by a huge fireworks display and ticker tape.

us custom and traditions


Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr: third Monday in January

Martin Luther King was the patriarch of the Civil Rights Movement.

Washington's Birthday: third Monday in February

Also known as Presidents’ Day, this holiday honors President George Washington.

Memorial Day: last Monday in May

This holiday honors the nation’s war dead from the Civil War onwards.

Independence Day: July 4

Known as the Fourth of July, this holiday commemorates America’s Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. It is celebrated with parades and fireworks.

Labor Day: first Monday in September

This holiday celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement.

Columbus Day: second Monday in October

This holiday honors Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of the Americas.

Veterans Day: November 11

This holiday honors all US armed forces veterans, with a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. to remember all those killed in war (commemorating the 1918 armistice at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”).

Thanksgiving Day: November 24

This holiday traditionally celebrates giving thanks for the autumn harvest, and is celebrated with a large family meal where turkey and pumpkin pie are on the menu.


Christmas Day: December 25

Celebrating the birth of Jesus, this holiday also has many secular aspects such as Santa Claus, gift giving and Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Other celebrations

Halloween: October 31

Children dress up in scary costumes and go from door to door saying “Trick or treat”; if they do not receive a candy treat, they play a trick on the householder!

Mardi Gras: 40 days before Easter Sunday

This lively celebration originates from the Catholic tradition of carnival, and is held in numerous cities including New Orleans.

Groundhog Day, February 2

This day is celebrated in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog (a type of large rodent) emerges from its burrow on this day, it will come out of its burrow and winter will soon end. If, however, it is sunny, the animal will "see its shadow" and go back inside, with winter continuing for six more weeks. Festivals are held to watch the animal emerge and there is then food and entertainment.

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