USA Holidays and Festivals

Officially, there are no national holidays in the United States, though the federal government has designated ten “legal or public holidays.” Each of the 50 states sets its own holidays, however, most states observe the federal ("legal or public") holidays. In 1971, the U.S. Congress voted to fix many holidays on Mondays, rather than on a particular calendar date, so workers have a long holiday weekend.

On the following national public holidays, banks, schools and government offices (including post offices) are closed, and transportation, museums and other services operate on a Sunday schedule.

New Year’s Day = January 1
Martin Luther King Birthday = Third Monday in January
President’s Day = Third Monday in February
Memorial Day = Last Monday in May
Independence Day = July 4. The historic anniversary of the US becoming in dependent inspires parades and fireworks.
Labor Day = First Monday in September
Columbus Day = Second Monday in October
Veteran’s Day = November 11
Thanksgiving Day = Fourth Thursday in November. A latter-day harvest festival. Family and friends gather for daylong feasts, traditionally involving roast turkey. New York City involves a huge parade.
Christmas Day = December 25. Christ’s birth inspires midnight church services, tree-lighting ceremonies, caroling the streets and of course, a visit from Santa.

Some states observe holidays that are not recognized by the federal government. For example, New Jersey celebrates Lincoln's Birthday, Good Friday and Election Day; Virginia celebrates Lee-Jackson Day, honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan ("Stonewall") Jackson, and the Day after Thanksgiving, affording state employees a four-day holiday weekend.

During spring break, college students get week off from school so they can overrun beach towns and resorts with wild shenanigans. Colleges don’t all choose the same week, so spring breaks occur throughout March and April. For students of all ages, summer vacation runs from June to August.

Americans will use nay excuse to party. Here are some festivals worth planning a trip around and some events celebrated nationally. For more info visit www.festivals.com.

St Paul Winter Carnival – St Paul, Minnesota, late January, www.winter-carnival.com. Ten days of ice sculptures, ice skating and ice fishing in January.
Chinese New Year – late January or early February. Celebrated with parades, fireworks and lots of food. San Francisco’s Chinatown is a fantastic place to be.
Black History Month – February. African American heritage is celebrated nationwide.
Valentine’s Day – 14th of February. For some reason, St Valentine is associated with romance. Shop sell out of boxes of chocolate candy, flowers and cards.
Mardi Gras – in late February or early March, the day before Ash Wednesday, Parades, revelry and abandonment accompany the finale of Carnival. New Orleans’s celebrations are legendary.
St Patrick’s Day – the 17th of March. The patron saint of Ireland is honoured. Huge celebrations occur in New York, Boston and Chicago. Wear green.
Easter – in late March or April, on the Sunday following Good Friday (which is not a public holiday). After morning church services, kids hunt for eggs hidden by the Easter bunny.
National Cherry Blossom Festival – Washington DC, in late March or April, www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Fiesta San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas, mid-April, www.fiesta-sa.org. Over 10 days, there are river parades, carnivals, Tejano music, dancing and tons of food in a mammoth, citywide party.
Conch Republic Independence Celebration – Key West, Florida, April, www.conchrepublic.com. A 10-day tribute to Conch Independence, held every April where you can vie for public offices or watch drag queens in a footrace.
Cinco de Mayo – the 5th of May. The day the Mexicans won the Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. Especially in the South and West communities celebrate their Mexican heritage with parades.
Mother’s Day – the second Sunday of May. Children send cards and call their mothers (or feel guilty for a whole year).
Father’s Day – the third Sunday of May. Same idea as Mother’s Day.
Gullah Festival – Beaufort, South Carolina, late May, www.gullahfestival.org.
Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, early June, www.redearth.org. Native Americans come from across the nation to celebrate and compete.
Burning Man Festival – Black Rock Desert, Nevada, late August / early September, www.burningman.com.
Halloween – the 31st of October. Kids dress in costumes and go door-to-door trick-or-treating for candy. Adults dress in costumes and act out alter egos at parties. New York and San Francisco are the wildest.
Day of the Dead – the 2nd of November. Areas with Mexican communities honor deceased relatives with candlelit memorials. Candy skulls and skeletons are popular.
Chanukkah – the date is determined by the Hebrew calendar, but usually begins before Christmas. This eight-day Jewish holiday is also called the Festival of Lights.
Kwanzaa – from December 26th to January 1st. This African American celebration is a time to give thanks and honor the seven principles.
New Year’s Eve – the 31st of December. Out with the old, in with the new. Millions get drunk, resolve to do better, and the next day nurse hangovers while watching college football.
Mummers Parade – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Year’s Day, www.mummers.com. An elaborate celebration of costumes.