American Holidays and Celebrations
Holiday celebrations in America signify the rich blending of historic traditions from other cultures with the uniquely commemorative nature of the people of the United States. Brief review and description basic national and ethnic holidays of Americans.
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Министерство образования Республики Беларусь
«Гомельский государственный университет
имени Франциска Скорины»
Факультет иностранных языков
Кафедра теории и практики английского языка
American Holidays and Celebrations
студент группы А-21
1. National Celebrations
1.1 New Year's Day
1.2 Easter Sunday
1.3 Christmas Day
2. Uniquely American Holidays
2.1 Martin Luther King's Day
2.2 Independence Day
2.3 Columbus Day
2.4 Veterans' Day
2.5 Thanksgiving Day
2.6 Presidents' Day
2.7 Arbor Day
2.8 Flag Day
2.9 Civil Rights Day
3. Ethnic and Regional Holidays
3.1 Mardi Gras
3.2 St. Patrick's Day
3.3 Native American Pow-Wows
3.4 Chinese New Year
3.5 Cinco de Mayo
4. Fun Days
4.1 St. Valentine's Day
4.2 April Fool's Day
national ethnic holiday america
American Holidays is an introductory survey of the historical and social background of American culture.
The population of the USA is made up of people of different nationalities. Centuries ago they brought with them their native celebrations. Some holidays which are marked in the US originated in America. There is no provision for national holidays in the USA. The number of holiday is different in different states - from 8 in the District of Columbia to 20 in Oklahoma.
People in every culture celebrate holidays. Although the word "holiday" literally means "holy day," most American holidays are not religious, but commemorative in nature and origin. Because the nation is blessed with rich ethnic heritage it is possible to trace some of the American holidays to diverse cultural sources and traditions, but all holidays have taken on a distinctively American flavor. In the United States, the word "holiday" is synonymous with "celebration!"
In the strict sense, there are no federal (national) holidays in the United States. Each of the 50 states has jurisdiction over its holidays. In practice, however, most states observe the federal ("legal or public ") holidays, even though the President and Congress can legally designate holidays only for federal government employees.
The following ten holidays per year are proclaimed by the federal government:
New Year's Day - January 1
Martin Luther King Day - third Monday in January
Washington's Birthday - third Monday in February
Memorial Day - last Monday in May
Independence Day - July 4
Labor Day - first Monday in September
Columbus Day - second Monday in October
Veterans Day - November 11
Thanksgiving Day - fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day - December 25
In 1971, the dates of many federal holidays were officially moved to the nearest Monday by then-President Richard Nixon. There are five holidays which are not necessarily celebrated on Mondays: Thanksgiving Day, Veterans Day, New Year's Day, Independence Day and Christmas Day. When New Year's Day, Independence Day, or Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, the next day is also a holiday. When one of these holidays falls on a Saturday, the previous day is also a holiday. Federal government offices, including the post office, are always closed on all federal holidays. Schools and businesses close on major holidays like Independence Day and Christmas Day but may not always be closed, for example, on President's Day or Veterans Day.
Federal holidays are observed according to the legislation of individual states. The dates of these holidays, and others, are decided upon by each state government, not by the federal (national) government. Each state can agree on the same date that the President has proclaimed, such as Thanksgiving Day. State legislation can also change the date of a holiday for its own special commemoration. Cities and towns can decide not to celebrate a federal legal holiday at all. However, the majority of the states (and the cities and towns within them) usually choose the date or day celebrated by the rest of the nation. There are other "legal" or "public" holidays which are observed at the state or local level. The closing of local government offices and businesses will vary. Whether citizens have the day off from work or not depends on local decisions
1. NATIONAL CELEBRATIONS
1.1 New Year's day
New Year's Day is January 1. The celebration of this federal holiday begins the night before, when Americans gather to wish each other a happy and prosperous coming year. The start of New Year's Day, at midnight, is heralded by fireworks, parties and special events, which are often televised. Very few people have to work on the day itself. For many it is a day of recovery from the New Year's Eve celebrations the previous night. In some towns and cities, parades are held and special football games are played. The birth of the first baby in the New Year is often celebrated with gifts to his or her parents and appearances in local newspapers and on local news shows. Many people make New Year's resolutions. These are usually promises to themselves that they will improve something in their own lives. Common New Year's resolutions are: drink less alcohol, get a better education, get a better job, get fit, health-e-cards for holidays and New Year, lose weight, manage debt, quit smoking now, reduce stress at work, reduce stress overall, save money, take a trip, volunteer to help others or to live a healthier lifestyle. [2, p.78]
Government offices, organizations, schools and many businesses are closed in the USA on New Year's Day. Public transit systems do not run on their regular schedules. Where large public celebrations have been held, traffic may be disrupted by the clean-up operation. In general, public life is completely closed down.
The Gregorian calendar is widely used in many countries such as the United States. This was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. The Julian calendar that had been in use until then was slightly inaccurate, causing the vernal equinox to move backwards in the calendar year. The Gregorian calendar was not accepted everywhere and some churches, particularly with origins in Eastern Europe, still use other calendars. According to the Gregorian calendar, the first day of the year is January 1. 
A common symbol of New Year's Day is Baby New Year. This is often a white male baby dressed in a diaper, a hat and a sash. The year he represents is printed on his sash. He rarely a newborn baby, as many pictures show him sitting up or even standing alone. According to mythology, Baby New Year grows up and ages in a single year. At the end of the year he is an old man and hands his role over to the next Baby New Year. Other symbols of New Year's Day are spectacular fireworks exploding over landmarks and clocks striking midnight as the year begins. [6, p. 91]
1.2 Easter Sunday
The Easter Sunday date varies because it is determined using a calculated lunar calendar. It is the first Sunday approximately after the first full moon on or after the March equinox.
Many Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is also a time for decorating eggs or sharing chocolate eggs among friends and family.
Many churches hold special services on Easter Sunday, which celebrate the Jesus Christ's resurrection after his crucifixion. Many people also decorate eggs. These can be hard boiled eggs that can be eaten later, but may also be model eggs made of plastic, chocolate, candy or other materials. It is also common to organize Easter egg hunts. Eggs of some form are hidden, supposedly by a rabbit or hare. People, especially children, then search for them. In some areas, Easter egg hunts are a popular way for local businesses to promote themselves or may even be organized by churches. 
Easter Sunday is not a federal holiday. Many aspects of public life are not any different to any other Sunday. Public transit systems usually run their regular Sunday schedule.
In Pagan times, many groups of people organized spring festivals. Many of these celebrated the re-birth of nature, the return the land to fertility and the birth of many young animals. These are the origins of the Easter eggs that we still hunt for and eat.
In Christian times, the spring began to be associated with Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. The crucifixion is remembered on Good Friday and the resurrection is remembered on Easter Sunday. The idea of the resurrection joined with the ideas of re-birth in Pagan beliefs. [16, P.41-44]
For people with strong Christian beliefs, the cross that Jesus was crucified on and his resurrection are important symbols of the period around Easter. Other symbols of Easter include real eggs or eggs manufactured from a range of materials, nests, lambs and rabbits or hares. Sometimes these symbols are combined, for example, in candy models of rabbits with nests full of eggs. Eggs, rabbits, hares and young animals are thought to represent the re-birth and return to fertility of nature in the spring. 
1.3 Christmas Day
Many people in the United States celebrate Christmas Day on December 25. The day celebrates Jesus Christ's birth. It is often combined with customs from pre-Christian winter celebrations. Many people erect Christmas trees, decorate their homes, visit family or friends and exchange gifts.
People celebrate Christmas Day in many ways. In the days or even weeks before Christmas Day, many people decorate their homes and gardens with lights, Christmas trees and much more. It is common to organize a special meal, often consisting of turkey and a lot of other festive foods, for family or friends and exchange gifts with them. Children, in particular, often receive a lot of gifts from their parents and other relatives and the mythical figure Santa Claus. This has led to Christmas Day becoming an increasingly commercialized holiday, with a lot of families spending a large part of their income on gifts and food.
Many Sunday schools, churches and communities organize special events. These can include decorating the neighborhood or a shopping mall, putting up a Christmas tree and planning a Nativity display, concert or performance. A lot of plays and songs have an aspect of Christmas as a theme. Some groups arrange meals, shelter or charitable projects for people without a home or with very little money. [16, P. 528-536]
Government offices, organizations, businesses and schools are closed, almost without exception. Many people visit relatives or friends and are out of town. This may cause congestion on highways and at airports. Public transit systems do not run on their regular schedules. In general, public life closes down completely. 
The original meaning of Christmas is a special church service, or mass, to celebrate the birth of Christ. The story of the Nativity, or the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, are particularly important in religious celebrations of Christmas. However, many traditions that are around today have their roots in pre-Christian winter festivals. These include the importance of candles and decorations made from evergreen bushes and tree, symbolizing everlasting light and life.
In Roman times, a mid-winter festival was held. This was a relaxing time with a lot of parties and merry making. It was also common to give other people small gifts, such as dolls for children and candles for adults. This festival culminated with the celebration of the winter solstice, which fell on December 25 in the Roman calendar. In Scandinavia, a festival called Yule and lasting up to twelve days was held in late December and early January. In this time people burnt logs and held parties. These customs have influences how Christmas Day is celebrated today in the United States.
The Bible does not give a precise date for the birth of Jesus. It is also unclear when December 25 became associated with the birth of Jesus, although it may have been around two hundred years after his birth. In the early centuries of Christianity, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus was not a cause for celebrations. The idea of turning this day into a celebration started in the early Middle Ages in Europe.
During Reformation and up until the middle of the 1800s, Christmas was often not celebrated because partying and merry making was seen as unchristian. From about 1840, celebrating Christmas became more widespread. December 25 was declared a federal holiday in the United States in 1870. Since then Christmas Day has become a steadily more important holiday. [11, p. 47]
A wide range of people and objects represent Christmas. These include baby Jesus, the Nativity and the Three Kings, but also Santa Claus, reindeer and elves. Common objects at this time of year are pine trees, holly, decorations, fairy lights, candles and presents. Christmas Day is now truly a mix of religious celebration and commercial interests. [16, P. 528-536]
2. Uniquely American Holidays
2.1 Martin Luther King's Day
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. He is most well-known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.
Martin Luther King Day is a relatively new federal holiday and there are few long standing traditions. It is seen as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background. Some educational establishments mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about the work of Martin Luther King and the struggle against racial segregation and racism. In recent years, federal legislation has encouraged Americans to give some of their time on this day as volunteers in citizen action groups. [14, P. 614-617]
Martin Luther King Day, also known as Martin Luther King's birthday and Martin Luther King Jr Day, is combined with other days in different states. For example, it is combined with Civil Rights Day in Arizona and New Hampshire, while it is observed together with Human Rights Day in Idaho. It is also a day that is combined with Robert E. Lee's birthday in some states.
Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday, but has slightly different names in some states. Non-essential Government departments are closed, as are many corporations. Some schools and colleges close but others stay open and teach their students about the life and work of Martin Luther King.
Small companies, such as grocery stores and restaurants tend to be open, although a growing number are choosing to close on this day. Some compensate by opening on Washington's Birthday instead. Recent federal legislation encourages Americans to give some of their time on Martin Luther King Day as volunteers in citizen action groups. Public transit systems may or may not operate on their regular schedule. [9, p. 55-58]
Martin Luther King was an important civil rights activist. He was a leader in the movement to end racial segregation in the United States. His most famous address was the "I Have A Dream" speech. He was an advocate of non-violent protest and became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated in 1968.
In 1968, shortly after Martin Luther King died, a campaign was started for his birthday to become a holiday to honor him. After the first bill was introduced, trade unions lead the campaign for the federal holiday. It was endorsed in 1976. Following support from the musician Stevie Wonder with his single "Happy Birthday" and a petition with six million signatures, the bill became law in 1983. Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986, although it was not observed in all states until the year 2000. 
2.2 Independence Day
Independence Day is annually celebrated on July 4 and is often known as "the Fourth of July". It is the anniversary of the publication of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776. Patriotic displays and family events are organized throughout the United States. Many people display the American flag on their homes. The celebrations have deep roots in the American tradition of political freedom.
Very few people have to work on Independence Day. It is a day of family celebrations with picnics and barbecues, showing a great deal of emphasis on the American tradition of political freedom. Activities associated with the day include watermelon or hotdog eating competitions and sporting events, such as baseball games, three-legged races, swimming activities and tug-of-war games.
Many people display the American flag outside their homes or buildings. Many communities arrange fireworks that are often accompanied by patriotic music. The most impressive fireworks are shown on television. Some employees use one or more of their vacation days to create a long weekend so that they can escape the heat at their favorite beach or vacation spot. [9, p. 55-58]
Independence Day is a patriotic holiday for celebrating the positive aspects of the United States. Many politicians appear at public events to show their support for the history, heritage and people of their country. Above all, people in the United States express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties fought by the first generation of many of today's Americans.
Independence Day is a federal holiday. If July 4 is a Saturday, it is observed on Friday, July 3. If July 4 is a Sunday, it is observed on Monday, July 5. Government offices and schools are closed. Some businesses may be closed as well. In some years, many employees use a proportion of their vacation days to create a long weekend. This can cause congestion in some places, particularly towards popular holiday destinations.
There are many public events, parades, shows and fireworks displays. This may cause local disruption to traffic. Public transit systems do not usually operate on their regular timetables.
In 1775, people in New England began fighting the British for their independence. On July 2, 1776, the Congress secretly voted for independence from Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was first published two days later on July 4, 1776. The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was on July 8, 1776. Delegates began to sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. In 1870, Independence Day was made an unpaid holiday for federal employees. In 1941, it became a paid holiday for them.
The first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations". throughout the United States. However, the term "Independence Day" was not used until 1791.
Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and presidents of the United States, died on July 4, 1826 - exactly 50 years after the adoption of the declaration. It is also important to note that Native Americans lived in the country and each tribe had its own nation and government prior to the European settlers. 
The most common Independence Day symbol is the American flag. Its design is displayed in all possible ways on July 4 and can be seen in front of homes and buildings. Other symbols associated with Independence Day are the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island in New York and the fireworks viewed all over the United States. Sometimes large civic works such as the Erie Canal and the Washington Monument start on July 4, emphasizing their contribution to the economy and culture of the United States. [9, p. 55-58]
2.3 Columbus Day
Columbus Day, which is annually on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus' arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492. This holiday is controversial because the European settlement in the Americas led to the demise of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples.
Officially, the people of the USA are invited to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of their country with church services and other activities. In some towns and cities, special church services, parades and large events are held. Most celebrations are concentrated around the Italian-American community. The celebrations in New York and San Francisco are particularly noteworthy. In Hawaii Columbus Day is also known as Landing Day or Discoverer's Day.
Not all parts of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. It is not a public holiday in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Moreover, Native Americans' Day is celebrated in South Dakota, while Indigenous People's Day is celebrated in Berkeley, California.
Columbus Day is a public holiday in many parts of the United states, but is not observed or is not a holiday in some states. Government offices and schools are generally closed, but businesses may be open. The flag of the United States is displayed on Government buildings. [17, p.56]
Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World. However, this is controversial on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had 'discovered' the Americas thousands of years before.
Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day become a holiday across the United States. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. The date on which Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the Dнa de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.
Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people. It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus' actions. It is clear that the arrival of the European settlers led to the demise of a large proportion of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It has also been argued that Columbus should not be honored for discovering the United States, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America. [9, p. 55-58]
2.4 Veterans' Day
In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is intended to honor and thank all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans. It is marked by parades and church services and in many places the American flag is hung at half mast. A period of silence lasting two minutes may be held at 11am. Some schools are closed on Veterans Day, while others do not close, but choose to mark the occasion with special assemblies or other activities.
Veterans Day is officially observed on November 11. However, if it falls on a week day, many communities hold their celebrations on the weekend closest to this date. This is to enable more people to attend and participate in the events. Federal Government offices are closed on November 11. If Veterans Day falls on a Saturday, they are closed on Friday November 10. If Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, they are closed on Monday November 12. State and local governments, schools and non-governmental businesses are not required to close and may decide to remain open or closed. Public transit systems may follow a regular or holiday schedule. [7, p. 69]
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be "filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory". There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.
In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should "issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples."
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) was approved on May 13, 1938, which made November 11 in each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day. This day was originally intended to honor veterans of World War I. A few years later, World War II required the largest mobilization of service men in the history of the United States and the American forces fought in Korea. In 1954, the veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word "Armistice" to "Veterans". Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, where ever and whenever they had served. 
In 1968 the Uniforms Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) made an attempt to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October. The bill took effect in 1971. However, this caused a lot of confusion as many states disagreed with this decision and continued to hold Veterans Day activities on November 11. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which stated that Veterans Day would again be observed on November 11 from 1978 onwards. Veterans Day is still observed on November 11. [7, p. 69]
2.5 Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day in the United States started as a way of giving thanks to food collected from a good harvest or problems that were fixed. It originated in 1621 and was a religious festival, but is now largely secular. It is now a holiday on the fourth Thursday of November.
It is traditional for families and groups of friends to get together for a large meal. This often consists of a turkey, stuffing, different types of potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy and maize and other seasonal vegetables. The meal also often includes pumpkin pie. Many of these foods are native to the Americas and were not available in Europe at the time of the first settlers. This adds to their symbolism of giving thanks for a good harvest in a new country.
Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades or festivities also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. Many football games are played and watching them is a popular activity. Some people have a four-day weekend so it is a popular time for trips out of town and to visit friends and family. [12, p.75]
Most government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations are closed on Thanksgiving Day. Many offices and businesses allow staff to have a four-day weekend so these offices and businesses also closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. Public transit systems do not usually operate on their regular timetables.
Many families and groups of friends get together for Thanksgiving so it is one of the busiest periods for travel. This can cause congestion and overcrowding. Seasonal parades and busy football games can cause disruption to traffic locally. Some states, such as Maine and West Virginia (among others), have an extra day for the Thanksgiving holiday. The following day is known as Thanksgiving Friday in these states. 
There are claims that the first Thanksgiving Day was held in the city of El Paso, Texas in 1598. Another early event was held in 1619 in the Virginia Colony. Many people trace the origins of the modern Thanksgiving Day to the harvest celebration that the Pilgrims held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. However, their first true thanksgiving was in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought. These early thanksgivings took the form of a special church service, rather than a feast, as is common now.
In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events. However, it was celebrated on different days in different communities and in some places there were more than one thanksgiving each year. The celebrations often included prayer and fasting and so were quite different to the modern holiday. George Washington, the first president of the United States, proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789.
Since 1863, Thanksgiving Day has been an annual holiday in the United States. A more recent tradition started in 1947. Since then, the president has been presented with a live turkey, which he 'pardons'. The turkey then spends the rest of its life peacefully on a farm.
Not everyone sees Thanksgiving Day as a cause for celebration. The European settlers had a massive destructive effect on the Native American peoples and their culture. Each year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day. [12, p. 75]
2.6 Presidents' Day
Washington's Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. It is also commonly known as Presidents Day (sometimes spelled Presidents' Day or President's Day). As Washington's Birthday or Presidents Day, it is also the official name of a concurrent state holiday celebrated on the same day in a number of states.
Titled Washington's Birthday, a federal holiday honoring George Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices.
In Massachusetts, the state officially celebrates "Washington's Birthday" on the same day as the Federal holiday state law also directs the governor to issue an annual "Presidents Day" proclamation on May 29 honoring the presidents with Massachusetts roots: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, and John F. Kennedy.
Alabama uniquely observes the day as "Washington and Jefferson Day", even though Thomas Jefferson's birthday is in April.
In Connecticut, Missouri and Illinois, while Washington's Birthday is a federal holiday, Abraham Lincoln's birthday is still a state holiday, falling on February 12 regardless of the day of the week.
In Washington's home state of Virginia, the holiday is legally known as "George Washington Day."
Today, the February holiday has become well-known for being a day in which many stores, especially car dealers, hold sales. Until the late 1980s, corporate businesses generally closed on this day, similar to present corporate practices on Memorial Day or Christmas Day. With the late 1980s advertising push to rename the holiday, more and more businesses are staying open on the holiday each year, and, as on Veterans Day and Columbus Day, most delivery services outside of the U.S. Postal Service now offer regular service on the day as well. Some public transit systems have also gone to regular schedules on the day. Many colleges and universities hold regular classes and operations on Presidents Day. Various theories exist for this, one accepted reason being to make up for the growing trend of corporations to close in observance of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, when reviewing the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill debate of 1968 in the Congressional Record, one notes that supporters of the Bill were intent on moving federal holidays to Mondays to promote business. Over time, as with many federal holidays, few Americans actually celebrate Washington's Birthday, and it is mainly known as a day off from work or school, although many non-governmental workers do not take the day off.
Consequently, some schools, which used to close for a single day for both Lincoln's and Washington's birthday, now often close for the entire week (beginning with the Monday holiday) as a "mid-winter recess". For example, the New York City school district began doing so in the 1990s. In return, however, most schools cut back Easter recess, traditionally a two-week break, to a week, or eliminate it altogether (except for, usually, Good Friday) in some years in favor of a "late spring recess" in late April or early May.
The federal holiday Washington's Birthday honors the accomplishments of the man known as "The Father of his Country". Celebrated for his leadership in the founding of the nation, he was the Electoral College's unanimous choice to become the first President; he was seen as a unifying force for the new republic and set an example for future holders of the office.
The holiday is also a tribute to the general who created the first military badge of merit for the common soldier. Revived on Washington's 200th birthday in 1932, the Purple Heart medal is awarded to soldiers who are injured in battle. As with Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Washington's Birthday offers another opportunity to honor the country's veterans.
Community celebrations often display a lengthy heritage. Historic Alexandria, Virginia, hosts a month-long tribute, including the longest running George Washington Birthday parade, while the community of Eustis, Florida, continues its annual "George Fest" celebration begun in 1902. In Denver, Colorado there is a society dedicated to observing the day. [16, P. 314-315]
At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia, visitors are treated to birthday celebrations throughout the federal holiday weekend and through February 22.
In Alabama the third Monday in February commemorates the birthdays of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).
In Arkansas the third Monday in February is "George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day," an official state holiday.
In New Mexico Presidents Day, at least as a state government paid holiday, is observed on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
In 2007 the country celebrated both Washington's 275th birthday and the 75th anniversary of the rebirth of the Purple Heart medal.
Since 1862 there has been a tradition in the United States Senate that George Washington's Farewell Address be read on his birthday. Citizens had asked that this be done in light of the approaching Civil War. The annual tradition continues with the reading of the address on or near Washington's Birthday.
Susan B. Anthony Day occasionally coincides with Presidents Day. 
2.7 Arbor Day
Arbor Day is a state holiday in Nebraska on the last Friday of April.
On Arbor Day, people are encouraged to plant and care for trees. A wide range of events are organized to promote Arbor Day. These include: communal tree planting ceremonies; proclamations by city governments; exhibitions and educational activities on trees and their importance to local communities and the planet as a whole; and fairs, musical performances and open days in garden centers. Schools are encouraged to plan lessons around the theme of trees. Arbor Day awards are also presented to individuals and organizations across the United States and around the world. These are awarded for outstanding service to trees, forestry or related ecological themes.
Arbor Day falls on the last Friday of April in Nebraska. It is a state holiday so schools and state offices, including many historic sites, are closed. Public transit systems offer a reduced service or may shut down completely. Other businesses and stores may be open or closed according to local custom. [1, p. 18]
In 1854 J Sterling Morton moved from Detroit to the area that is now the state of Nebraska. At that time there were virtually no trees in the area and he and the other pioneers desired to have them in their surroundings. They also noticed that trees were needed to act as windbreaks to stabilize the soil and to provide shade from the sun, fuel and building materials. Morton planted many trees around his own home but wanted to encourage and enable others to do the same.
At a Nebraska State Board of Agriculture meeting on January 4, 1872, he proposed a holiday to plant trees on April 10, 1872. This was known as "Arbor Day" and prizes were awarded to the counties and individuals who planted the most trees on the day. A total of about one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. In 1874, Governor Robert W Furnas officially proclaimed that Arbor Day would be observed on April 10, 1884. In 1885, it became a legal holiday and was moved to April 22, which was Morton's birthday. In 1989 the official state holiday was moved to the last Friday in April. In Nebraska, Arbor Day is now observed on the last Friday in April, which is also when National Arbor Day is observed. Former President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day during his presidency in 1970.
All states in the US now have an official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that is has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees. Many observations of this day are in April, but the following states hold them at different times of the year: Florida and Louisiana (January); Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi (February); Arkansas, Arizona, California, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee (March); Alaska, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont (May); Hawaii (November); and South Carolina (December). Similar events to encourage the planting or care of trees are arranged in many countries around the world. The dates are usually chosen to coincide with the optimal season for planting or caring for native trees.
Arbor Day is symbolized by the trees that are planted on the day or as a result of fundraising activities. The official Arbor Day logo shows a mature deciduous tree and the words "celebrate Arbor Day". The symbol of the Arbor Day Foundation is a similar tree in a circle, symbolizing the importance of trees to the whole planet. Local initiatives may use their state tree as a symbol. 
2.8 Flag Day
People across the United States celebrate Flag Day on June 14 each year to honor the United States flag and to commemorate the flag's adoption.
Flag Day falls within National Flag Week, a time when Americans reflect on the foundations of the nation's freedom. The flag of the United States represents freedom and has been an enduring symbol of the country's ideals since its early days. During both events, Americans also remember their loyalty to the nation, reaffirm their belief in liberty and justice, and observe the nation's unity.
Many people in the United States honor this day by displaying the American flag at homes and public buildings. Other popular ways of observing this holiday include: flag-raising ceremonies; Flag Day services; school quizzes and essay competitions about the American flag; musical salutes; street parades; and awards for special recognition. 
Organizations such as The National Flag Day Foundation are actively involved in coordinating activities centered on the event and keeping the flag's traditions alive. Following Flag Day is Honor America Days, a 21-day period through to Independence Day (July 4) to honor America. During this period, people hold public gatherings and activities to celebrate and honor the nation.
Although Flag Day is a nationwide observance, it is not a public holiday in many parts of the United States. It is a legal holiday in a few areas in the USA, such as Montour County in Pennsylvania.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress replaced the British symbols of the Grand Union flag with a new design featuring 13 white stars in a circle on a field of blue and 13 red and white stripes - one for each state. Although it is not certain, this flag may have been made by the Philadelphia seamstress Betty Ross, who was an official flag maker for the Pennsylvania Navy. The number of stars increased as the new states entered the Union, but the number of stripes stopped at 15 and was later returned to 13.
In June 1886 Bernard Cigrand made his first public proposal for the annual observance of the birth of the flag when he wrote an article titled “The Fourteenth of June” in the old Chicago Argus newspaper. Cigrand's effort to ensure national observance of Flag Day finally came when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of the event on June 14, 1916. However, Flag Day did not become official until August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day. In 1966, Congress also requested that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as National Flag Week.
The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation to: call on government officials in the USA to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on Flag Day; and to urge US residents to observe Flag Day as the anniversary of the adoption on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.
The American flag, also nicknamed as “Old Glory” or “star-spangled banner”, has changed designs over the centuries. It consists of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars. Each of the 50 stars represent the 50 states in the United States and the 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies that became the first states in the Union. [5, P. 713-769]
2.9 Civil Rights Day
Civil Rights Day is a state holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire, in the United States, on the third Monday of January. It honors civil rights activists and is combined with Martin Luther King Day.
Many people in Arizona and New Hampshire observe Civil Rights Day to honor the civil rights movement. Some schools include lessons, quizzes and class reports about civil rights around this time of the year. Students who participate in these activities learn more about the history and importance of civil rights in the United States and globally. [5, P. 713-769]
The media play an important role in publicizing issues that center on the day. Many people read print or online articles and features, as well as watch special television programs or listen to radio segments about civil rights achievements and problems throughout history and in modern times.
Civil Rights Day is a public holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire so many schools, state offices, and businesses are closed. There may be vehicle travel restrictions (oversize and overweight permits) on this day. Those who plan to use public transport on the day may need to check with their local transport authorities. The third Monday of January is a postal holiday in the United States.
New Hampshire used to observe Fast days before Civil Rights Day was introduced. Fast days were common throughout New Hampshire's colonies for hundreds of years. These were days of public humiliation, fasting and prayer that governors issued to avoid plagues, earthquakes, crop failures and other unwanted events. The earliest known Fast Day proclamation was in Boston on September 8, 1670.
The New Hampshire legislature abolished its Fast Day in May in 1991 to create Civil Rights Day. The Day was scheduled to be observed annually on the third Monday of January, coinciding with Martin Luther King Day. A compromise was made to end 12 years of debate over the holiday - it was to delete the Martin Luther King Jr's name from the official holiday name. However, many people in New Hampshire associate Martin Luther King Jr's name with the holiday, as he was one of the United States' most respected civil rights activists.
With regard to Arizona, on June 18, 1987, State Governor Evan Mecham issued a proclamation declaring "the third Sunday in January, commencing in 1988 and every year thereafter to be Martin Luther King, Jr. - Civil Rights Day in the State of Arizona...". However the proposal to create the Martin Luther King Day holiday was turned down in the Arizona Senate in 1988. In 1992, Arizona voters passed Proposition 300, which established a Martin Luther King/Civil Rights holiday on the third Monday of every January. Arizona observed this combined state holiday for the first time in 1993. 
3. ETHNIC and Regional Holidays
3.1 Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday)
Mardi Gras is a holiday in some parts of the United States and often serves as a festive occasion featuring large celebrations. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday, as it is the last day before the long fast for Lent in many Christian churches. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent, a period for fasting. It is also known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, and features large festivals and celebrations across the United States. The Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, in Louisiana, is typical of the masquerades and dancing in the streets that take place in other parts of the United States before the long Lenten fast. 
Traditional Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans spotlight the King of the Carnival and the Monarch of Merriment, as well as Comus, the God of Revelry. Many people dress up in eye-catching costumes and a spectacular ball is held. Debutantes are introduced at the Ball Tablaeu as a formal introduction to society.
People throw trinkets to crowds as part of the customary “parade throw” at New Orleans' Mardi Gras celebration. During the Bacchus parade, the king's float throws doubloons with the image of the “Celebrity King” on one side of the doubloon (cups and toy coins) to parade watchers. Traditional Mardi Gras food includes the King Cake in which a pecan or charm is hidden. The person who gets a piece of the cake with the charm or nut is dubbed the “king” of that year's Mardi Gras.
The Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama also celebrate Mardi Gras. Parade schedules start as early as January and feature marching bands, colorful floats, and crowds of parade goers along the streets in downtown Mobile. Galveston, in Texas, hosts its own Mardi Gras celebration, which features masked balls, a royal coronation, Cajun dances, jazz performances and parades with floats.
Mardi Gras is a state holiday in Louisiana. It is also marked as a holiday in the Baldwin and Mobile counties only in Alabama. Governing authorities of any municipality or county in Mississippi can declare this event as a holiday to replace any legal holiday except Martin Luther King's Birthday (which is combined with Robert E Lee's Birthday in the state). [8, P. 119-127]
Mardi Gras in the United States was first observed in Mobile when it was a colony of French soldiers in 1703. Mardi Gras was transformed into a parade event in 1840 by the Cowbellion de Rakin Society, the first of Mobile's organizations that journeyed to New Orleans in 1857 to help a group there set up a Mardi Gras celebration. The first Carnival society, known as the Mistick Kreweof Comus, took part in coordinating the event that year. The event was well received and continued until it was suspended during the American Civil War. Mardi Gras was one of the first local institutions to be revived after the war. It reappeared in 1866 and has continued to grow in modern times. A general article about Shrove Tuesday worldwide covers more information about its background and symbols. 
3.2 St. Patrick's Day
St Patrick's Day occurs on March 17 and is day to remember one of Ireland's patron saints, St Patrick. It largely celebrates Irish-American culture in the United States, and the use of the color green is predominant.
St Patrick's Day celebrations concentrate on Irish themed parties, alcoholic drinks and food. People celebrating often dress in green clothing and may consume food and drink dyed green. Irish clubs and pubs often hold special events or promotions. Large street parades are held to mark St Patrick's Day in cities such as: Chicago, Boston, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, Detroit, Toronto, New York, New Orleans, Seattle.
Parades are held on Saturday, March 16, in New York during the years when March 17 is a Sunday. The parade is always held on the Sunday before March 17 in many other cities. Some people see St Patrick's Day as a celebration of the color green, rather than solely focusing on the Irish-American culture. Water is dyed green in public places in some towns. The most notable body of water that was dyed green was the Chicago River in 2005.
People dress in green clothing and eat food, which is either naturally or dyed green, on St Patrick's Day. Some people go as far as holding green dinner parties where the guests are expected to wear green and eat exclusively green food.
St Patrick's Day is not a federal holiday in the United States. Schools, businesses and organizations are open as usual. Public transport systems run on their regular schedules. There may be some local disruption to traffic due to St Patrick's Day parades. This is particularly true in cities with a large Irish-American population, including New York, New Orleans and Seattle. The parades may be on or around March 17, so it is a good idea to check local sources for the exact location, date and time. [8, P. 119-127]
St Patrick is one of Ireland's patron saints and many Americans with Irish ancestry remember him on March 17. Patrick's Day is fixed on March 17, but may occasionally be moved by the authorities of the Catholic Church. This happened in 1940, so that the celebrations would not fall on Palm Sunday, and in 2008 to avoid Holy Monday, the last Monday before Easter Sunday.
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