America being a large country has a number of holidays that vary from one region to another. In fact, every state and region has its own festival and celebration to celebrate. There are federal holidays as well as the religious ones. There are art festivals and music ones. In fact, the place, being a melting pot of diverse cultures from around the world is a hotbed of festivals from around the world. However, still there are some popular ones that can be listed as follows:
New Year’s Day: Welcomed throughout the history on different dates, the Great Britian and its American colonies adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1752 and restored 1st of January as the New Year’s eve. Full of parties and celebrations that start late on December 31st of previous year and is celebrated by people of different religions in different manners. For example, those of Islamic culture celebrate the day by wearing new clothes while the Southeast Asians free turtles and birds to get good luck for the coming year. Hindus leave their deities by the side of their beds so that they see beautiful objects at the start of the new year. Whatever may be the custom, sentiments of wishing good luck and new year promises revert throughout the communities. There is also a special Tournament of Roses parade that precedes the Rose Bowl Football game in Pasadena California. Yje theme of this annual five mile long parade changes every year and is enjoyed by both the participants as well as spectators equally.
Martin Luther King Day: On January 20th every year, People all across the country celebrate the Martin Luther King Holiday which is the first and only Federal holiday commemorating an African- American. People of 27 states celebrate the birth of this famous Civil Rights movement who helped in abolishing the discrimination against Black Americans. Federal offices and schools remain closed while elaborate and quiet memorial service are held in the honour of Dr King all over the country. Radio stations and television channels play special speeches and programs all weekend giving the highlights of Dr King’s life and times.
President’s Day: Celebrated on the third Monday of February every year, the President’s Day is a federal holiday commemorating all the United States presidents. Earlier, up till 1971 both February 12 and February 22 were celebrated as the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays consecutively. It was in 1971 when President Nixon proclaimed one single holiday in the honour of all the past presidents of America. Most of the major store chains hold special sales on this day.
Valentine’s Day: Originally celebrated in the memory of St Valentine, Valentine’s Day is today one of the most commercialized festivals of United States of America. Celebrated on February 14, the day commemorates true love with lovers expressing their feelings with flowers, gifts and greeting cards. However, the day is not just for lovers. It can be celebrated by anyone who cares about anyone else without limiting yourself to just the lover or your girlfriend/boyfriend. However, popular convention goes for the lovers with special sales and special gifts getting commercialized and promoted to mark the day.
Arbor Day: Celebrated in April in most of the American states depending on the best tree planting days of every state, Arbor day proposes for the future unlike other holidays that repose on the past. The day emphasizes the importance of environment and helps in increasing the general public awareness about the natural preserves of Earth. The idea was first started in Nebraska where April 10 was marked as the day to plant trees later changed to April 22 to mark J. Sterling Morton’s birthday, the founder of the idea. However, each state celebrates the day on different dates. For example, Hawaiians mark their Arbor day by planting trees on the first Friday of November.
Mother’s Day: Celebrated in the honor of mothers by children of all ages, Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1915. With no concept of joint families in America, this day is a great way of showing appreciation for these women who have sacrificed a big part of their lives for their children. The day is marked by children serving breakfast to their mothers in bed or getting them gifts that mark small token of their love for them. Many even gift red carnations, the official mother’s day flower. One of the busiest places that you can find on the Mother’s day are the restaurants- after all, who will want their mom to cook dinner on this very special day!!!
Memorial Day: This federal holiday falling on last Monday of May is the first major holiday that is celebrated by all the states after New Year’s Day. After all, the day commemorates the fighters and soldiers of the country who fought for the country and died in its service. Cities all around the country hold their own memorial ceremonies to pay respects to these brave souls. Not only is this day limited to the armed forces, the day is also for personal reflection when many visit the cemetery or churches in the memory of their deceased loved ones. There is a special wreath laying ceremony and change of guard ceremony held on Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Virginia that attracts people from all over the world. The day is solemn reminder of the work done by the soldiers of the country to maintain the position and freedom of the country as it stands today. In addition to all this, there is also the famous Indianapolis 500 auto race held on this day in Indianapolis, IN.
Father’s Day: One of the only few countries of the world to do so, United States of America has an official day honouring fathers in the name of Fathers Day that is celebrated on every third Sunday of June. The day began as an idea in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson approved of the idea but it was not until 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge declared the day as a holiday to establish better relationship between children and their fathers. Since the, this day is celebrated by children all over the country to honor their fathers by giving them gifts and taking them on special treats to mark this day.
Independence Day: Independence Day is celebrated on July 4 as this is the day when the Congress adopted the final draft of “Declaration Of Independence”. The day marks the freedom of the country from the colonization of Great Britian. Every year on this day, Every American enjoys a holiday from work with day long picnics that includes all the popular favourites such as hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and others. There is music, dance games and competitions that make the day all the more lively. There are special parades organized in various cities where people march to the music of the school bands. However, the highlight of the day is the special fireworks display that takes place during the dusk. Wherever the Americans may be around the world, they make it a point to get together for a special traditional Independence Day celebration.
Labor Day: This federal holiday is celebrated on the first Monday of September and commemorates the working community of the nation. The day was declared as a holiday in 1894 when the idea of a labor day was floated across the country. Though there is much less fanfare today on this day, there are still many cities that hold special Labor Day parades and picnics. The day is also considered to be an ideal day by many politicians to kick start their political campaigns and rallies. Since the day also marks the end of scorching summer, people can be seen enjoying on the beach with their families making most of this last three day weekend.
Columbus Day: Today, though we consider earth being round for granted, earlier that was not the case. It was all upto an Italian named Christopher Columbus who pushed the notion that Earth was flat and you could very well fall off the edge of the earth. It was in 1866 that the Italian population of New York who celebrated the Columbus Day for the first time as a celebration of discovery of the land of America. As the years went by, more and more Italian organizations from more and more cities started celebrating the day as a mark of their pride for their native son. On every second Monday of October, Columbus day is celebrated with much gusto and pride. In fact, 1992 marked the 500th anniversary of this Columbus discovery.
Veterans’ Day: Regardless of what day of the week it falls on, Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 every year. If and when the day falls during the weekend, the federal government observes a holiday either on the Friday or Monday. The day is celebrated in order to remember the sacrifices made by men and women during the two world wars as well as all the other wars that followed. The day starts with various ceremonies and speeches that last till 11 in the morning along with observing a moment of silence for all those who fought. There are many Veteran support groups organised by the military service veterans that organize charitable activities to raise funds for the disabled veterans.
Thanksgiving Day: Celebrated every fourth Thursday of November, the Thanksgiving was first started out as a feast to celebrate the plentiful harvest and thank the lord for the same. It was in 1863 when then President Abraham Lincoln set the day aside after a long and bloody civil war to celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year the date is different that is made official only by the President’s proclamation. The day is a time for sharing and tradition. Family members living in different cities come together to give thanks together to the lord for all the good things they have. Till date, there are many symbols of the first Thanksgiving that have become an integral part of the celebrations. These include turkey, corn, pumpkins and cranberry sauce. They are even drawn on the greeting cards and other decorations to mark the day as a special thanks to the lord for the food and every other good thing in the world.
Christmas: Said to be one of the most joyful religious holidays for the Christians, Christmas is the day when baby Jesus took birth in this world. It is a season of giving and receiving gifts. In fact, there is a popular legend involving Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas or the popular Santa Claus who comes into the houses in the night and leaves gifts for the children. Most children believe that he lives in North Pole and presents gifts to the children who have been good throughout the year. Though Santa Claus lives only in our imagination, he helps children from all over the world believe in the spirit of giving. Another cherished tradition of these holidays is the going home time. In fact, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest times of airports. Families come together to decorate their own Christmas tree and decorate house along with the customary traditional meal preparation. In addition to the Christmas feast, there are special Christmas sermons organised in churches where people pray to the lord and sing carols together.
Easter: Reasons for celebrating Easter have become buried in history with time. Origins of this festival is said to lie somewhere between pre Christian religions and Christianity. Named after Eastre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring, this festival also marks a salute to spring. Today, Easter Sundays are celebrated with decorated eggs and candy baskets along with the Easter bunny spirit. New clothes are worn for the day followed by visits to the church. Followed by these church services are the famous American tradition of Easter Parades that take place all around the country.
Cinco De Mayo: Every year on May 5, Los Angeles, California comes alive with holiday spirit that involves color, dancing and laughter. The day emphasizes the relationship and friendship between Mexico and America. Mexican orchestras and local bands crowd the streets playing Mexican patriotic songs. It feels as if the whole of Los Angeles gets colored in red, white and green- traditional colours of the Mexican flag. People come together to celebrate picnics, dances and sports events around the country complete with Mexican food servings.
Mardi Gras: Derived from the French words ‘Fat Tuesday’, Mardi Gras combines religious fervor with carnival atmosphere to welcome spring in a joyous way. The holiday is celebrated in a boisterous fashion with masked paraders walking down the streets in a full carnival mode. The day is also an important festivity for the Chriustians as it is the last day when Catholics can eat meat before Lent. You will find yourself reminiscing the carnivals of Brazil what with the enthuthistic festivities with which the festival is celebrated. The day is a federal holiday is Florida, Alabama and the eights states of Louisiana. However, if you truly want to soak in the pleasure and fun of this festival, make sure you are in New Orleans where Mardi Gras is celebrated to the true extent of fun.
Halloween: Every year on October 31st, children across the country celebrate the festival of Halloween dressed in scary costumes knocking on neighbours’ house yelling ‘trick or treat’. There are pirates and princesses, ghosts and superheroes, all dressed to the T. The day was earlier celebrated as the Celtic New Year who believed that on this day, ghosts walked down and mingled with the dead. Food was baked throughout the day and left at the edge of the town hoping that it would satisfy the ghosts and leave the town. It was a celebrated connected to evil spirits thus making witches, goblins, cats and ghosts the popular symbols of the festival. There is also the popular Pumpkin lantern that is considered to the most popular symbol of this day. There are special games and parties organized in stores and malls with treats awaiting for the children best dressed or the winning child.
Your holiday in America is never going to be a dull one as the place is full of festivities and celebrations and you are sure to land up in one festival or the other even without any deliberate planning thus adding more fun and memories to your whole trip.