United States

Festivals & Events

Festivals & Events


Holidays

Always gotta be different

The U.S. celebrates Labor Day in September (rather than on May 1 as in most countries, in commemoration of the Haymarket Affair of 1886). November 11, which is Remembrance Day in Europe and Canada, has been expanded to celebrate all veterans of the U.S. armed forces; Memorial Day serves the purpose of recognizing war dead.

There are no nationwide, mandatory public holidays. Federal holidays are the most centrally coordinated holidays, but they are only officially recognized by the federal government; federal offices, banks, and post offices close on these days. Nearly all states and localities also observe these holidays, as well as a handful of their own. If a federal holiday falls on a weekend, the observance will normally be shifted to the nearest weekday.

The time between Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) and January 1 has such a high concentration of major holidays that it is often simply called "the holiday season." School and work vacations are commonly taken during this period, with people visiting family and friends. Airports, Interstates, bus stations, and train stations will be very crowded near the major holidays. If you must travel, allow extra time to check in and clear security. This is also a major gift giving season; most shopping malls and department stores will be crowded, especially on the day after Thanksgiving, the week before Christmas, and the day after Christmas.

In the list below, federal holidays are listed in bold italics.

  • New Year's Day (1 January) — most non-retail businesses closed; parades; brunches and football parties.
  • Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January) — many government offices and banks closed; people volunteer in their communities; speeches, especially on African-American history and culture.
  • Chinese New Year (January/February — varies based on the Chinese lunar calendar) — Chinese cultural celebration.
  • Super Bowl Sunday (usu. first Sunday in February) — The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the NFL American football league and the most-watched sporting event of the year; supermarkets, bars, and electronics stores busy; big football-watching parties.
  • Lincoln's Birthday (second Monday in February) - Holiday in several states; many stores have sales.
  • (St.) Valentine's Day (14 February) — private celebration of romance and love. Most restaurants are crowded; finer restaurants may require reservations made well in advance.
  • Presidents Day (third Monday in February; officially Washington's Birthday) — many government offices and banks closed; many stores have sales.
  • St. Patrick's Day (17 March) — Irish-themed parades and parties. Expect bars to be crowded. They will often feature themed drink specials. The wearing of green clothes or accessories is common.
  • Easter (a Sunday in March or April) — Christian religious observances. Depending on location, many fast-food restaurants may be closed, but sit-down restaurants are more likely to be open. Major retailers generally open; smaller shops may or may not close. This is assumed to be "Western Easter," unless otherwise stated.
  • Passover (varies based on the Jewish calendar, eight days around Easter) — Jewish religious observances.
  • Cinco de Mayo (5 May) — A minor holiday in most of Mexico often incorrectly assumed to be Mexican Independence Day, but nevertheless a major cultural celebration for Mexican-Americans. As with St. Patrick's Day, expect bars to be crowded, even in places without large Mexican-American communities.
  • Mother's Day (second Sunday in May) — Children and adults give gifts to their mothers. Most restaurants are crowded; finer restaurants may require reservations made well in advance.
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May) — most non-retail businesses closed; some patriotic observances; trips to beaches and parks; traditional beginning of summer tourism season.
  • Father's Day (third Sunday in June) — Children and adults give gifts to their fathers. Many restaurants and sporting events are crowded, although not to the same extent as Mother's Day.
  • Independence Day / Fourth of July (4 July) — most non-retail businesses closed; patriotic parades and concerts, cookouts and trips to beaches and parks, fireworks at dusk.
  • Labor Day (first Monday in September) — most non-retail businesses closed; cookouts and trips to beaches and parks; many stores have sales; traditional ending of summer tourism season.
  • Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (varies based on the Jewish calendar, September or early October) — Jewish religious observances.
  • Columbus Day (second Monday in October) — many government offices and banks closed; some stores have sales. Italian-themed parades in some cities. Columbus Day can be controversial, especially among Native Americans and Latinos, and is not as widely observed as it was in the past.
  • Halloween (31 October) — Children dress up in costume and go trick-or-treating (knocking on other houses' doors to get candy and other treats). There are spooky attractions, such as haunted corn mazes, hayrides and costume parties. Some small family-owned shops and restaurants may close early in the evening.
  • Veterans Day (11 November) — government offices and banks closed; some patriotic observances.
  • Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November) — Family dinners with roast turkey as the centerpiece; many people fly or drive to visit extended family. Airports in particular will be extremely crowded on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. Almost all businesses closed, including grocery stores and many restaurants.
  • Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) — Major Christmas shopping traditionally begins, most stores have sales and many open in the very early morning. Most non-retail employees are given Friday off or take it as a holiday.
  • Hanukkah / Chanukah (varies based on the Jewish calendar, eight days usually in December) — Jewish religious observances, often culturally associated with Christmas.
  • Christmas (25 December) — Families and close friends exchange gifts; Christian religious observances. Almost all businesses, grocery stores, and many restaurants closed the evening before and all day.
  • Kwanzaa (26 December – 1 January) — African-American cultural observances.
  • New Year's Eve (31 December) — many restaurants and bars open late; lots of parties, especially in big cities.

All U.S. embassies are closed on the federal holidays in addition to the holidays of the host country.

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