Each of the USA’s 50 states celebrates their own individual holidays and events, and many of the other important dates are classed as ‘observances’ within the country, rather than public holidays, to take into account religious holidays, anniversaries and special events.
20 January 2014 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Marked each year on the third Monday in January, the day honours the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, although his actual date of birth is 15 January 1929. Some cities across the US hold parades and many use the day to volunteer their time for local charities and community projects.
31 January 2014 – Chinese New Year
Chinese, and indeed Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Korean communities all across the world will celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year, which in 2014 is the Year of the Horse. The largest festival within the traditional calendar is marked with deeply symbolic lion dances, elaborate firework displays and the giving of red envelopes containing monetary gifts, to symbolise prosperity. Families gather for traditional meals then will visit friends and relatives later on, as well as attending local temples to offer thanks and prayers. Scrolls of Chinese poetry, aka duilian, adorn houses and businesses.
2 February 2014 – Groundhog Day
Each year the USA gets involved with Groundhog Day, where folklore says that the cute little rodent can predict whether spring is on its way or not. If its cloudy when the groundhog emerges then spring will arrive early but if its sunny (and the creature catches sight of its own shadow) then winter, supposedly, will continue for a further six weeks. The 1993 movie ‘Groundhog Day’ introduced the concept to the world. The largest annual event is held in Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania where the borough’s famous resident groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his prediction each year.
17 February 2014 – Washington’s Birthday
Each year on the third Monday in February, the United States marks Washington’s Birthday (the USA’s first ever President in 1789), which has been a federal holiday since 1879. George Washington’s date of birth is 22 February 1732, so the actual holiday never actually lands on the actual birthdate. Over the years, the event has evolved to more of a Presidents Day which also marks President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on 12 February and is a state holiday in CT, IL, MO, NJ, and NY. Indeed all 44 Presidents are honoured on this day.
17 March 2014 – St Patrick’s Day
This lively festival commemorates Ireland’s patron Saint, St Patrick. Many countries have adopted the event as part of their own calendar, turning their local attractions green and supping the traditional Irish Guinness. Indeed many major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Seattle and New York hold street parades, themed parties and traditional food in honour of St Patrick’s Day. Cities have even been known to dye their water green – the Chicago River went green in 2005. And the Obama’s get involved each year too, donning the traditional green.
22 May 2014 – National Maritime Day
Each year on 22 May, National Maritime Day is marked across the United States in honour to show gratitude for the thousands that work in the maritime industry and the benefits it brings. Specific ships and individual seafarers are also recognised.
26 May 2014 – Memorial Day
Memorial Day honours those that died in the nation’s conflicts, from the Civil War and indeed all wars onwards. The day, which falls on the last Monday in May also unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
4 July 2014 – Independence Day
Possibly the biggest celebration on the annual calendar, Independence Day marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence, thus releasing America from British rule on 4 July 1776. The Fourth of July holiday sees lively street parades, lavish fireworks and themed parties all across the country.
19 August 2014 – National Aviation Day
Across the US, National Aviation Day is observed each year on 19 August to mark the aviation industry’s history and development. The date is designed to coincide with Orville Wright’s birthday, who along with his brother Wilbur, made pioneering contributions to the advancements of powered flight.
1 September 2014 – Labor Day
The first Monday in September marks both Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer. The day is designed to celebrate the achievements of the American workers and give thanks to their contributions.
9 October 2014 – Leif Erikson Day
The Iceland born explorer Leif Erikson is widely regarded as the very first European to actually sight the Americas in around the year 1000. Archaeological surveys prove that the Vikings happened upon Baffin Island and Labrador around 500 years earlier than the journey made by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
13 October 2014 – Columbus Day
Legendary explorer Christopher Columbus is honoured on this annual holiday, thanks to his achievement as the first adventurer to land in the western world on 12 October 1492. The Italian explorer happened upon the Americas quite by accident and changed world history. There is some dispute however that the Norse explorer Leif Erikson actually sighted land a full 500 years earlier (see above)!
31 October 2014 – Halloween
Halloween is really celebrated with aplomb across the world, but the US seems to have taken it to a whole new level. Kids celebrate with elaborate costume parties and trick-or-treating and adults get involved by watching horror movies (Nightmare on Elm Street anyone?) and creating haunted houses and themed graveyards.
11 November 2014 – Veterans Day
All veterans within the US Armed Forces are honoured each year on the 11th of November. 2014 is especially poignant as it marks the centenary of start of World War I. Indeed the date itself is in honour of the end of World War I on 11 November in 1918 – World War I was ended at the 11th hour on the 11th day within the 11th month during 1918. Across the world Veterans Day is also known as both Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.
27 November 2014 – Thanksgiving Day
The biggest holiday celebrated in the USA is undoubtedly Thanksgiving, which falls on each year on the fourth Thursday within November. The day itself tends to get rolled into a four day long Thanksgiving weekend with elaborate parades, street parties and fireworks. The day itself was established to give thanks for an abundant autumn harvest. It’s a traditional festival, spent with family and friends, where, much like Christmas Day, a turkey dinner is consumed. It also marks the countdown to the Christmas period.
25 December 2014 – Christmas Day
Christmas Day is the most celebrated event on the annual Christian calendar as the birth of Jesus. It’s one of the biggest religious holidays in the USA where followers attend mass on Christmas Eve and across the world, family and friends unite to enjoy a traditional lunch of either turkey or goose and all the trimmings.