DestinationsHolidays in the United States

This article describes the most popular holidays that can affect tourist travel in the United States.

Since the United States is made up of such a diverse group of people from all over the world, a wide array of holidays are celebrated by people from different ethnicities, cultures, religions, beliefs and backgrounds. Our intent here is to list the most relevant holidays to someone who is visiting this country and may not be familiar with them. We’ve listed all of the federal holidays as well as a few other popular or culturally significant ones.

New Years – January 1st

New Years Day is a quiet day of recovery from the celebration of the previous evening. Activities usually include sleeping late and watching football games on the television. Some folks have dinner parties for their family or invited guests. Most businesses and shops will be closed. Some restaurants, bars and even a few shopping centers may be open.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – 3rd Monday in January

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an official U.S. federal government holiday to honor the late civil rights activist. Although it was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and first observed three years later on January 20, 1986, a number of states resisted observing the holiday by giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It wasn’t officially observed in all 50 states until 2000.

Valentines Day – February 14th

Valentines Day is the holiday of love. This unofficial holiday dedicated to the Christian Saint Valentine is a day for sweethearts and lovers. Admirers send each other Valentine Day greeting cards. Lovers and spouses buy flowers, candy and gifts for their sweethearts. Many couples go to restaurants for intimate dinners. All stores and businesses are open.

President’s Day – 3rd Monday in February

President’s Day is an official U.S. federal government holiday and originated as a day to honor and observe George Washington’s Birthday. However, many states also added various other ex-presidents like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson so the federal government decided to change the name to President’s Day. Many stores in the U.S. take this opportunity to hold President’s Day sales.

Saint Patrick’s Day – March 17th

If Valentines Day is the holiday of love, this is the holiday of booze. Many cities and towns still hold parades on this day and, yes, some still dye their beer and even their rivers green. Many people will cook traditional Irish foods like corned beef and cabbage, wear green all day and have a few drinks with family and friends.

Easter – Some Time Between Late March and Early May

Easter is primarily a Christian holy day commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is celebrated on a Sunday in early spring. Most activities are church or family oriented and usually include a gathering of the family for a dinner feast. Children often search for colored eggs that the Easter Bunny has hidden in their yard. Businesses are little affected since this holiday is always on a Sunday. Most restaurants, gasoline stations and convenience stores remain open, but some shopping centers will close or open only for abbreviated hours.

Memorial Day – Last Monday in May

Memorial Day is the traditional beginning of the summer vacation season and the start of the long school break. Originally, this holiday was a time to remember deceased relatives and friends and a time to visit their graves. Today, Memorial Day is a celebration of the beginning of Summer. Most people use this long weekend for picnics, excursions, short vacation trips, or just relaxation and shopping. Businesses and office will be closed but all attractions and shopping facilities will be open.

Juneteenth National Independence Day – June 19th

Juneteenth is our newest U.S. Federal holiday having been officially added on June 17 2021. Juneteenth is a combination of June and nineteenth and is a celebration of June 19, 1865, the day when Texas finally agreed to free all of its slaves. Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 it was not strictly enforced and took Texas until June 19, 1965 to officially end slavery.

Independence Day or the Forth of July – July 4th

Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is a time for patriotic celebrations, picnics and relaxation. Many cities and towns across the country hold parades, musical performances and fireworks displays. Business offices will close but all stores, restaurants and attractions will remain open.

Labor Day – 1st Monday in September

Labor Day is the traditional end of the Summer vacation season when most schools begin their new terms. This long weekend is usually celebrated with an excursion, a picnic or one last mini vacation of the season.  All attractions and shopping facilities will be open.

Halloween – October 31st

This “hallowed evening”, preceding the ancient church holiday of All Saints Day, was superstitiously believed to be a time when the souls of the deceased would return to earth to roam. Today. it is a festive occasion in the USA. Some people decorate their homes and yards with images of ghosts, goblins, witches, skeletons and Jack o’ lanterns (hollowed out pumpkins carved into scary faces and illuminated by small internal candles). In the evening, small children dress in costumes and visit houses in their neighborhoods collecting sweets. Many towns and cities have costumed Halloween parades. The most elaborate and outlandish Halloween parades are held in Greenwich Village in New York City and in San Francisco, California. All businesses and stores are open for normal business hours on this holiday.

Veterans Day – November 11th

Veterans Day started out as a celebration of the end of World War I and a way to honor the solders who sacrificed so much in that War, but has since turned into a day when we honor all of our Veterans for their service.

Thanksgiving – 4th Thursday in November

Thanksgiving Day is equivalent to the annual harvest festivals in many other countries. It is a time to reflect on all of your blessings and to express thanks for a bountiful harvest. It is not a religious holiday. Most people in the USA celebrate this holiday by gathering at their family home for a feast. The traditional dish for the Thanksgiving Day dinner is a large roasted turkey with stuffing. After dinner, the preferred recreation is watching football matches on the Television. Most business offices will close on this day. Some stores, shopping centers, restaurants and bars will remain open. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the traditional opening of the Christmas shopping season. Stores and shops all offer bargain prices and people flock to the shopping centers in great number. The days before and after Thanksgiving are the busiest airline travel days in the U.S.

Christmas – December 25th

Christmas is primarily a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. Although it always falls on the 25th of December, the holiday season actually begins weeks earlier. From the beginning of December, people begin shopping for gifts to give to their children and other family members. They attend holiday parties at their offices, at friend’s homes or at restaurants throughout December. Many families decorate their homes and yards with multicolored sparkling lights.

Most families erect small evergreen trees in their homes and decorate them with colored lights and glittering ornaments. On Christmas morning, children awaken to find brightly wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. Christmas day is an intimate family holiday. Children and grandchildren may return home for an annual Christmas dinner and exchange of gifts. Close friends, relatives and neighbors often visit each other on Christmas evening. Most businesses, tourist attractions and shopping centers are closed on Christmas. Some restaurants, bars, gasoline stations, movie theaters, and convenience stores will remain open.

Hanukah and Kwanzaa

Hanukah and Kwanzaa are also celebrated in December. Hanukah, or the feast of lights, is a Jewish holiday that also includes a tradition of gift giving. It is usually celebrated in mid December. Kwanzaa is a relatively new Afro-American holiday, though it has its’ roots in long standing traditions.  It is celebrated from December 26 through January first. It has no religious affiliation but is a joyous celebration of the oneness and goodness of life with an emphasis on Afro-American heritage and culture. Together the three holidays of Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa make December the most joyous and festive month in the USA.

New Years Eve – December 31st

New Years Eve is a time for big parties and celebrations in the USA. Nearly every restaurant, bar and club hosts a grand New Years eve party. The festivities usually include music, food, drink, dancing and a lot of noise with a toast at midnight. Some cities and towns host large outdoor celebrations that usually culminate with a huge fireworks display at midnight. The most famous outdoors New Years Eve celebration is held at Times Square in New York City. Most businesses and shops will be open normal hours on New Years Eve, as the celebrating does not begin until evening.