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Listed here are the ten national holidays by occurrence within the year and with description...

  • New Year's Day -- January 1
    The celebration of this holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous coming year.

  • Martin Luther King Day -- January, Third Monday
    The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., an African-American clergyman, is considered a great American because of his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means. Since his assassination in 1968, memorial services have marked his birthday on January 15. In 1986, that day was replaced by the third Monday of January, which was declared a national holiday.

  • Presidents' Day -- February, Third Monday
    Until the mid-1970s, the February 22 birthday of George Washington, hero of the Revolutionary War and first president of the United States, was a national holiday. In addition, the February 12 birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the president during the Civil War, was a holiday in most states. The two days have been joined, and the holiday has been expanded to embrace all past presidents. It is celebrated on the third Monday in February.

  • Memorial Day -- May, Last Monday
    This holiday honors the dead. Although it originated in the aftermath of the Civil War, it has become a day on which the dead of all wars, and the dead generally, are remembered in special programs held in cemeteries, churches, and other public meeting places. Search for "Memorial Day" related content listed at USA Patriotism! including articles, photos, poems, music videos, and tribute videos

  • The Fourth of July or Independence Day -- July 4
    Honors the nation's birthday -- the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts and fireworks. The flying of the American flag (which also occurs on Memorial Day and other holidays) is widespread.

  • Labor Day -- September, First Monday
    This holiday honors the nation's working people, typically with parades. For most Americans it marks the end of the summer vacation season, and for many students the opening of the school year.

  • Patriot Day -- September 11
    By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day" . . . in honor of those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On this day, the President calls upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. In addition, the President calls upon all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (The first plane crashed at 8:46 a.m.)

  • Columbus Day -- October, Second Monday
    On October 12, 1492, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. (Most other nations of the Americas observe this holiday on October 12)

  • Veterans Day -- November 11
    Originally called Armistice Day, this holiday was established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It falls on the day when that war ended in 1918, but it now honors veterans of all wars in which the United States has fought. Veterans' organizations hold parades, and the president customarily places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

  • Thanksgiving Day -- November, Fourth Thursday
    Many Americans take a day of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit family and friends. The holiday dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference . . . After a rough winter, in which about half of them died, they turned for help to neighboring Indians, who taught them how to plant corn and other crops. The next fall's bountiful harvest inspired the Pilgrims to give thanks by holding a feast. The Thanksgiving feast became a national tradition . . . not only because so many other Americans have found prosperity but also because the Pilgrims' sacrifices for their freedom still captivate the imagination. To this day, Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie. Before the meal begins, families or friends usually pause to give thanks for their blessings, including the joy of being united for the occasion.

  • Christmas Day -- December 25
    Another Christian holiday, it marks the birth of the Christ Child. Decorating houses and yards with lights, putting up Christmas trees, giving gifts, and sending greeting cards have become traditions even for many non-Christian Americans.

Note... With the many levels of American government, confusion can arise as to what public and private facilities are open on a given holiday. The daily newspaper is a good source of general information, but visitors who are in doubt should call for information ahead of time.

Information obtained from Department of State


Other National Days of Recognition (not holidays)

  • National Medal of Honor Day -- March 25
    Congress designated March 25th as National Medal of Honor Day to honor the recipients of the nation's highest military honor.

  • Constitution Day -- September 17
    In 2004, the United States Congress passed legislation designating every September 17 as Constitution Day, and requiring each educational institution that receives Federal funds to hold an educational program on the U.S. Constitution on this day.  (The Friday before or Monday after applies for education institutions if September 17 occurs on a weekend.)  Many celebrate it in honor of the importance of the Constitution.)

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