Offices & Resources

American Holidays

Of the holidays on the following list, not all are celebrated throughout the United States, and not all are celebrated by everyone. Some are holidays only for members of certain religions; others are for particular groups.

The following list indicates which holidays are legal holidays (when government offices are closed) and which are business holidays (when many businesses, except some drugstores, service stations, and food stores, are closed).

Head’s Holiday Any day that the Head of School chooses! This holiday is a unique St. Marks’ School Holiday. Mr. Warren, on a year when we haven’t had too many snow days, will select a day and announce that it will be a head’s holiday. This means that everyone will have a day off to rest and recuperate from their hard work. The Head’s Holiday is generally announced in School Meeting.

New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. Celebration of New Year’s Day usually occurs the night before, on New Year’s Eve, when it is common for groups of people to have a party to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Alcoholic beverages are usually served. It is customary to make loud noises at midnight, when the new year officially arrives; embracing or kissing others at midnight is also customary.A legal and business holiday.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Jan. 15 (but celebrated the third Monday in January), a legal holiday in many states, including Indiana.

St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Usually simply called Valentine’s Day. A day for lovers to exchange cards and/or gifts. Children in primary school usually exchange “valentine cards” with their classmates, and it has become common for even relatives and casual friends to exchange cards and tokens.

Presidents’ Day, February, third Monday. Commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays. A legal holiday.

Ash Wednesday, date varies (see Easter). Marks the beginning of the 40-day period of Lent, a period of penitence and fasting in some Christian denominations. On Ash Wednesday, some Christians attend a church service during which small ash marks are placed on their foreheads to symbolize man’s ultimate return to dust.

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. A day dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland. Many people wear something green on this day. Some communities have parades. Many bars sell green-colored beer.

Good Friday, the Friday just before Easter, a day on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion. Some businesses are closed on this day.

Easter, 46 days after Ash Wednesday; date varies based on moon cycles, falling on a Sunday between late March and late April. Christians celebrate their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this day. For children, baskets of candy and dyed, hard-boiled eggs are given or sometimes are hidden by a mythical Easter Rabbit or Easter Bunny. The children seek out the hidden eggs on Easter egg hunts. Many businesses close early or do not open at all.

Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May. Gifts, cards, and/or special attention are given to mothers and grandmothers.

Memorial Day, (observed the last Monday in May). A legal and business holiday on which homage is paid to U.S. soldiers who have died in wars.

Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which is in spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and is celebrated for seven or eight days. It is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays.

Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June. Gifts, cards, and/or special attention are given to fathers and grandfathers.

Flag Day, June 14. Flags are flown to mark the adoption of the American flag.

Independence Day (usually termed the Fourth of July), July 4. Parades, fireworks, and flags celebrate the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. A legal and business holiday. (Note: Some types of fireworks are for sale to consumers around this time of the year. They all can be dangerous, and some are legal in certain cities and states but illegal in others. Check with local law enforcement agencies regarding local laws. A few types of fireworks, especially very large firecrackers, are illegal everywhere in the United States.)

Labor Day, the first Monday of September. A legal and business holiday noting the importance of workers and labor organizations.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The principal Jewish holidays. Both are celebrated on varying dates in September or October, based on fixed dates on the Jewish calendar that vary from year to year from the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the Western world.

Columbus Day, Oct. 12 (or nearest Monday). Commemorates the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus on the shores of North America. A legal holiday.

Halloween, Oct. 31. From All Hallow’s Eve, the evening before the Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day. Halloween is a children’s holiday, associated with carving faces on pumpkins called jack-o’-lanterns and making witches, cats, and ghosts for decorations. Children often go to parties in costumes or go trick-or-treating. Trick-or-treating means putting on a costume, carrying a bag, and going door-to-door in a neighborhood saying “trick or treat,” and being given a piece of candy by the occupant of the house or apartment. Young children should be accompanied by an adult when trick-or-treating.

Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Not a legal or business holiday, but people may leave work briefly to vote in municipal, county, state, and/or national elections.

Veterans Day is celebrated November 11. A legal holiday honoring veterans of armed service.

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November. A harvest celebration, stemming from harvest-time festivities in the original American colonies. A legal and business holiday on which, traditionally, families gather to eat a large meal that includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

Hanukkah, sometimes spelled Chanukah, celebrated in late November or (usually) December, based on fixed dates on the Jewish calendar that vary from year to year from the Gregorian calendar. An eight-day Jewish holiday marking the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Christmas, Dec. 25, a legal and business holiday. The major U.S. holiday. It began as a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ but is now also a widely celebrated day of feasting and gift-giving. Preparations, including the buying of gifts and decoration of homes and public places, begin as early as Thanksgiving. Santa Claus, a mythical figure, is said to visit the homes of children on the night of Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) and leave gifts for them while they sleep. Many people send Christmas cards to their friends. Both home and office Christmas parties are quite common and take place throughout the month of December, a time that is frequently called the “holiday season” because several other holidays are celebrated during this time as well.

Kwanzaa, Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. For seven days some African Americans observe Kwanzaa, a Swahili word for “the first,” or “the first fruits of the harvest.” It is a cultural holiday, celebrating African-American heritage.