Holidays and Other Observances

Americans celebrate a number of holidays deeply rooted in our collective history. We also set aside specific days or longer periods of time to celebrate our rich cultural heritage or specific events from our past. Here are a few to keep in mind.

September

  • Labor Day – First Monday in September. This holiday honors the nation’s working people, typically with parades. For most Americans it marks the end of the summer vacation season and the start of the school year.
  • 11 –  Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance
  • 15 – Hispanic Heritage Month – Observed from September 15 to October 15. Includes celebrations of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.
  • 17 – Constitution Day – Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognizing all who, are born in the U.S. or by naturalization, have become citizens.

October

  • Columbus Day – Celebrated on the second Monday in October. The day commemorates October 12, 1492, when Italian navigator Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. The holiday was first proclaimed in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

November

  • Native American Heritage Month
  • Election Day – The day after the first Monday in November
  • 11 – Veterans Day – This holiday was originally called Armistice Day and established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. It now honors veterans of all wars in which the U.S. has fought. Veterans’ organizations hold parades, and the president places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
  • Geography Awareness Week – Third week in November.  Geography Awareness Week has been held since 1987. The purpose of is to promote geographic education in schools and among the public.
  • Thanksgiving – The fourth Thursday in November. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest. Many regard this event as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving feast became a national tradition and almost always includes some of the foods served at the first feast: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

December

  • 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day –  In 1994, Congress designated this national observance to honor the more than 2,400 military service personnel who died on this date in 1941, during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese forces.

January

  • 1 – New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – The third Monday of January – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrates his tireless efforts to win civil rights for all people through nonviolent means.

February

  • African American History Month
  • 2 – Groundhog Day –  Celebrated since 1887, crowds gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to see if groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow after emerging from his burrow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter weather.
  • President’s Day – third Monday of February – Originally designated as a day to celebrate the birthday of Washington and later Lincoln, President’s Day now honors the legacy of past presidents.

March

April

  • 22 – Earth Day – First celebrated in 1970 in the United States, it inspired national legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Earth Day is designed to promote ecology, encourage respect for life on earth, and highlight concern over pollution of the soil, air, and water.
  • Arbor Day –  The last Friday in April. Designated by President Richard Nixon in 1970, a number of state Arbor Days are now observed at other times of the year to coincide with the best tree planting weather. The observance began in 1872 when Nebraska settlers and homesteaders were urged to plant trees on the largely treeless plains.

May

  • 1 – Law Day –  In 1958, President Eisenhower proclaimed Law Day to honor the role of law in the creation of the United States of America. Three years later, Congress followed suit by passing a joint resolution establishing May 1 as Law Day.
  • Memorial Day – The last Monday of the month. Memorial Day originally honored the people killed in the American Civil War, but has become a day on which the American dead of all wars are remembered.

June

  • 14 – Flag Day – Flag Day  has been a presidentially proclaimed observance since 1916. Although Flag Day is not a federal holiday, Americans are encouraged to display the flag outside their homes and businesses on this day to honor the history and heritage the American flag represents.

July

  • 4 – Independence Day –  This holiday honors the nation’s birthday – the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

August