American Holidays & Seasons
US Culture

Holidays in the United States

New Years

New Years Day (January 1) is a quiet day for 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.

Valentines Day

Valentines Day (February 14) 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.


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 includes 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.

Save 20% on your reservation at Travelodge

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is usually celebrated on the last Monday in May. It 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.

Independence Day, the Fourth of July

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

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It 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. Many folks choose stay at home to relax or catch up on chores. All attractions and shopping facilities will be open.


Halloween is celebrated on the 31st day of October. 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 about. 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 at Greenwich Village in New York City and in San Francisco, California. All businesses and stores are open for normal business hours on this holiday.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. This 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. 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.


Christmas is primarily a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. It always falls on the 25th of December, but 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 grand children all return home for an annual Christmas dinner and exchange of gifts. Close friends, relatives and neighbors often visit each other on Christmas evening. Nearly all businesses, tourist attractions and shopping centers are closed on Christmas. A few restaurants, bars, gasoline stations 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 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

New Years Eve (December 31) is a time for big parties and celebrations in the USA. Nearly every restaurant, bar and club hosts a grand New Years eve ball. The festivities usually include music, food, drink, dancing and a lot of noise with a traditional champagne 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.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Peter Genis
Photo Description: The Statue of Liberty, a monument commemorating the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor as Fourth of July fireworks light up the night sky.