Holidays in 2014

Americans are diverse people who observe many different holidays. In a calendar year, federal and state governments officially recognize ten holidays. Although there are many ways Americans choose to observe these holidays, there are some common themes throughout the country. Official holidays are usually observed with closure of government offices, businesses and financial markets. In 2014, the official holidays will occur on the following dates:

New Year’s Day, January 1
Martin Luther King Day, January 20
Presidents’ Day, February 17
Memorial Day, May 26
Independence Day, July 4
Labor Day, September 1
Columbus Day, October 13
Veterans Day, November 11
Thanksgiving Day, November 27
Christmas Day, December 25

Three of the federal holidays honor specific individuals. Martin Luther King Day commemorates the birthday of American Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martin Luther King. Presidents’ Day was established to honor the birthday of George Washington, the first President of the United States. This holiday was later expanded to include Abraham Lincoln, who was President during the American Civil War and whose birthday also falls in February. Columbus Day remembers the arrival of explorer Christopher Columbus in the Americas. Typically, these holidays are observed with special ceremonies, parades or commemorative speeches, honoring the individuals for which they are named.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have national historic significance to Americans. While both Memorial Day and Veterans Day honor Americans that have served in military conflicts, Memorial Day is noteworthy in that it honors those who died in the conflicts. Both holidays are an occasion for displaying the American flag in front of homes, businesses and government offices. Memorial Day is observed by placing wreaths or flags on the graves of fallen soldiers.

Independence Day is a uniquely American holiday that commemorates the American colonies’ declaration of independence from Britain. This day is marked with many displays of the American flag and its colors of red, white and blue. Many Americans enjoy dressing and decorating in the colors of the flag. Independence Day, which is always on July 4, is also celebrated with parades and fireworks. All across the country, people host grand picnics and backyard celebrations with friends and family.

holidays in 2014Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are major holidays that have Christian origins, but they are observed in both a religious and secular manner. Thanksgiving Day was established as a time to give thanks for the blessing of the harvest. People decorate their homes in the colors of autumn and gather with family for a delicious feast. Thanksgiving also signals the start of the Christmas shopping season, a key retail event on the calendar. Christmas Day is significant for Christians as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Scenes of Mary, Joseph and the Christ child in a manger are displayed and acted out in Christmas plays. Other Christian Christmas themes include angels, kings and the star of Bethlehem. A more secular expression of this holiday is found in themes of winter and St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. Bright Christmas decorations adorn many homes, shops and workplaces. Exchanging gifts on Christmas day is the way most Americans celebrate, but there are many other observances of this holiday, including: church services, charity work, special feasts and musical concerts.

Labor Day honors American workers, and is viewed as the symbolic end of summer and start of a new school year for students. The day falls on the first Monday of September, and it may be celebrated with picnics, parades, or just enjoying a day off work. There are no special themes or typical celebrations for Labor Day, as it is usually just taken as a day of rest.

New Year’s Day, which is celebrated worldwide, is often marked by counting down to midnight and welcoming the New Year with singing, dancing, and fireworks. A celebratory toast to health and prosperity is a customary way to mark the start of a new year. Many people also enjoy a day off from work and gathering with family for a special dinner.

Two unique holidays worth mentioning are Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Valentine’s Day, a celebration of love, is February 14. This day is marked with exchanging gifts and expressing romance. Flowers, chocolates and candle-lit dinners are familiar Valentine’s celebrations. Quite the opposite is Halloween, which is focused on spooky themes like ghosts, vampires and other frights. The main activity on this holiday is attending costume parties or “trick or treating.” Children, dressed in creative costumes, go from house to house collecting candy treats.

Additionally, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are important celebrations. Mother’s Day is the second Sunday of May and Father’s Day is the third Sunday of June every year. Set aside to honor parents, these days are typically celebrated with gifts and special dinners. Popular gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day include greeting cards and flowers.

Because the United States is such a diverse nation, Americans also celebrate holidays linked to their ethnic heritage. Chinese New Year is observed in many American cities, and Americans of Irish heritage enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March. Additionally, several religions have played a role in introducing holidays to the calendar. Christians will celebrate Easter Sunday on April 20, 2014. Those in the Jewish community will observe Passover April 15 through April 22. Also in 2014, people of Muslim faith will begin their observance of Ramadan on June 29.

In every month of the calendar, there are holidays to celebrate. Whether solemn, patriotic, religious, or frivolous, American holidays have a wide range of themes. These celebrations unite Americans and give honor to the faiths, events and people they value.