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Guide to US Holidays

Holidays give us insight into the cultural, religious, or historical landscape of a group of people. Thus, new immigrants to the US who feel culturally disconnected can start bridging the gap by learning American holidays and how they came about. Here’s a chronological list of the major American holidays, how they are celebrated, and the meanings they hold for Americans.

New Year

New Year falls on January 1, but celebration actually begins the preceding night. Americans celebrate with firework display, noisemakers, party hats, and foods. In New York, NY and Pasadena, CA, also celebrate with street parties and masquerade balls.

Valentine’s Day

The fourteenth of February is celebrated as the day of love. Couples go on romantic dates or dinners and exchange Valentine’s cards, chocolates, and flowers (roses particularly) .


This is a Christian holiday celebrated every fourth Sunday of April. It is celebrated to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Traditional symbols include Easter eggs, Easter bunny, and Easter basket. Parents typically organize Easter egg hunt for their kids.

Mother’s Day

This is observed every second Sunday of May. During this day, mothers and grandmothers are honored with greetings, gifts, cards, and special dinners.

Fourth of July

Also called the Independence Day, Fourth of July is a patriotic holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Americans celebrate with barbecue cookouts, picnics, baseball games, and fireworks.

Father’s Day

Observed every third Sunday of June, Father’s Day was created to honor American fathers, grandfathers, and stepfathers. This holiday was first celebrated in 1910.


Kids dress up in scary costumes and go from house to house with big bags saying “Trick or Treat”. The house owner then puts candy or chocolate in their bags. Kids also carve “jack o’ lanterns” out of pumpkins. Adults organize costume parties, too. Halloween is celebrated on October 31.


Thanksgiving is that time of the year when American families gather and partake of dinners featuring the best American recipes, such as pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. It’s a harvest festival after all, so the focus is food. The centerpiece of family dinner is a large, stuffed turkey. Thanksgiving is celebrated every fourth Thursday of November.


Christmas is the most widely celebrated Christian holiday. It is observed every December 25, in commemoration of the birth of Jesus. Americans celebrate by hanging mistletoes, decorating the home with Christmas wreaths and Christmas tree, and gift-giving. A popular symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus, a jolly, white-bearded man who comes down a chimney to place gifts under your Christmas tree.



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