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Holidays in USA

The United States has a number of holidays — official and/or cultural — of which the traveler should be aware of. Note that holidays observed on Mondays or Fridays are usually treated as weekend-long events. (A weekend consists of a Saturday and a Sunday.) Federal holidays — i.e., holidays observed by the federal government, state and local government and banks — are indicated in bold italics. If a federal holiday with a fixed calendar date (such as Independence Day) falls on a weekend, federal and most state and local government offices will be closed on the nearest non-weekend day. Since the early 1970s, several federal holidays, including Memorial Day and Labor Day, have been observed on a certain Monday rather than on a fixed date for the express purpose of giving federal employees three-day weekends. Foreign embassies & consulates in the U.S. also observe the same federal holidays in addition to the official holidays of their respective countries. The private sector (besides banks) are usually open for business on most holidays with people working except New Years, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas when a vast number of non-retail businesses do close or open partial hours in observance.

Due to the number of major holidays in close proximity to each other, many Americans refer to the period between Thanksgiving in late November and New Year’s Day as simply “the holidays.” School and work vacations are commonly taken during this period:

New Year’s Day (1 January) — most non-retail businesses closed; parades; brunches and football parties.

Martin Luther King Day (third Monday in January) — many government offices and banks closed; speeches, especially on African-American history and culture.

Chinese New Year (January/February — varies based on the Chinese lunar calendar) — Chinese cultural celebration. Airfare within the U.S. may be reasonable at this time of the year but if planning to fly from the U.S. to China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and anywhere in that part of the world the seats may be limited and fares higher so plan accordingly.

Super Bowl Sunday (usually the first Sunday in February) — The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the NFL (National Football League) American football league and the most-watched sporting event of the year; supermarkets, bars, restaurants and electronics stores are very busy; big football-watching parties everywhere. Those with the extra money to burn DO travel to the host city where the Super Bowl is happening to attend the game live. This makes travel to that city even more hectic with a limited availability of airline seats, hotel rooms, rental cars and parking spaces at much higher than usual prices. The host city varies annually so plan accordingly if planning to be in the host city on Super Bowl Sunday.

Valentine’s Day (14 February) — private celebration of romance and love. Most restaurants are crowded; finer restaurants may require reservations made well in advance.

Presidents Day (third Monday in February; officially Washington’s Birthday) — many government offices and banks closed; many stores have sales.

St. Patrick’s Day (17 March) — Irish-themed parades and parties. Expect bars to be crowded. They will often feature themed drink specials. The wearing of green or a green accessory is common.

Easter (a Sunday in March or April) — Christian religious observances. Depending on location, many restaurants, including franchised outlets of major national chains, may close. Major retailers generally open; smaller shops may or may not close.

Passover (varies based on the Jewish calendar, eight days around Easter) — Jewish religious observance.

Cinco de Mayo (5 May) — A minor holiday in most of Mexico often incorrectly assumed to be Mexican independence day which is really September the 16th, but nevertheless a major cultural celebration for Mexican-Americans. As with St. Patrick’s Day, expect bars to be crowded, frequently with themed drink specials.

Memorial Day (last Monday in May) — most non-retail businesses closed; some patriotic observances; trips to beaches and parks; beginning of the traditional beginning of summer tourism season which means jacked up summer prices for rooms and airfare to some places.

Independence Day / Fourth of July (4 July) — most non-retail businesses closed; airports and highways crowded; patriotic parades and concerts, cookouts and trips to beaches and parks, fireworks at dusk.

Labor Day (first Monday in September) — most non-retail businesses closed; cookouts and trips to beaches and parks; many stores have sales; last day of the traditional ending of summer tourism season which means a better time to plan for travel to or within the U.S. in many places.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (varies based on the Jewish calendar, September or early October) — Jewish religious observances.

Columbus Day (second Monday in October) — many government offices and banks closed; some stores have sales. Columbus Day can be controversial, especially among Native Americans, and is not as widely observed as it was in the past.

Halloween (31 October) — trick-or-treating, parades, and costume parties.

Veterans Day (11 November) — government offices and banks closed; some patriotic observances.

Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November, date varies annually) — almost all businesses closed, including grocery stores and many restaurants; family dinners. Airports and highways are very crowded the days before and after, but are frequently “empty” on the day itself. The next day, known as “Black Friday,” major Christmas shopping traditionally begins. Many non-retail employees are given Friday off or take it as a holiday. If planning to fly within the U.S. during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday and the weekend after plan accordingly as the airfares are higher than normal.

Hanukkah / Chanukah (varies based on the Jewish calendar, eight days usually in December) — Jewish religious observance, often culturally associated with Christmas.

Christmas Eve (24 December) the evening or day before Christmas Day. The mythical character Santa Claus comes during that night to deliver presents.

Christmas (25 December) — almost all businesses, grocery stores, and many restaurants closed the evening before and all day. Airports and highways are crowded. Families and close friends exchange gifts; Christian religious observances. If planning to fly around the Christmas holiday and the week between Christmas and New Years Day plan accordingly as the airfares are higher than normal. Flying on Christmas Day can be cheap compared to other days.

Kwanzaa (26 December-1 January) — African-American cultural observance.

New Year’s Eve (31 December) — many restaurants and bars open late; lots of parties, especially in big cities.

Other federal services like national parks and airport security operate 365 days a year regardless of federal holidays.

Many state governments also observe official holidays of their own which are not observed in other states or by the federal government.