Texas Tech University

Holidays in the USA

Below is a list of holidays celebrated in the United States. Many of these holidays are federal or "bank holidays" meaning that schools and government buildings are closed. Others are "unofficial" holidays that are observed by the public.

The United States is a melting pot of many different cultures, so holiday traditions can vary depending on where in the United States they are celebrated. Some states even have their own holidays. State holidays are not considered federal holidays and therefore schools and businesses remain open. Many holidays celebrated in the U.S did not originate in the U.S but were brought over by immigrants and adapted in the American culture. Today we celebrate a wide variety of holidays, many of which are also shared with other countries.  

New Years

  • Celebrated on December 31st and January 1st.
  • Holiday type: Federal (New Years Day only)

Watch the colorful crystal ball drop in New York Cities Time Square. Many television channels stream the event in New York. There is also live music and special guests to enjoy. One minute before midnight the ball in time square beings to slowly drop as everyone counts down together! Many people host parties and celebrate by lighting fireworks. It is one of the few times you can buy fireworks in Lubbock, although fireworks are not allowed inside the city limits.

People wear party hats and glasses and use noisemakers to celebrate. It is also common for some partygoers to get dressed up in more formal outfits, as New Years is considered a classy holiday by many. When midnight hits some people also pop party poppers which contain confetti.

In West Texas, black-eyed peas are a traditional food for good luck in the new year. A dish called Hopin John is made with black-eyed peas, is similar to a type of thick stew, made with pork, onions, rice, and salt.

Be sure to give your partner a big kiss when the clock strikes midnight, as is tradition. Kissing your partner will ensure good luck for you as a couple in the new year.

Martin Luther King Day

  • Celebrated on January 20th.
  • Holiday type: Federal.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a famous and influential civil rights activist. He was a leader in the fight to end racial segregation and racism against African Americans in the United States beginning in 1957. He was a hero of the people, who traveled all across the US to speak to the people. His speeches gave hope to many who longed for a more equal United States. Sadly Dr. King lost his life after he was assassinated in 1968 from his hotel balcony in Memphis Tennessee. He was the youngest man in history to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He is remembered as a leader who fought for peace and justice.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day takes place on the late Dr. King's birthday. Americans observe this day, by remembering the man who "Had a Dream" and the steps still needed to achieve equality. In the week before his birthday, schools take time to study his life and teach future dreamers about who he was and his message. Some schools are still open on this day.

Ground Hog Day

  • Celebrated on February 2nd.
  • Holiday Type: Observed

Groundhog Day celebrated in both the U.S and Canada is a tradition in which a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, "predicts" the weather for the upcoming Spring season. People don't celebrate groundhog day like they do other holidays. On Groundhog day you simply check the news to see if what Phil's prediction for the Spring will be. There is a celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where Phil lives. Even the mayor attends the festivities. local legend says that if Phil sees his shadow then there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow then spring will arrive early!

Valentines Day

  • Celebrated on February 14th.
  • Holiday Type: Observance

Known as the most romantic day of the year, Valentines Day is a day to show someone special how much to care about them! Valentines is celebrated by giving your partner or spouse a special gift to show your love. Many couples go out to a nice dinner, a movie, or just enjoy a date night. Valentine's is not just for couples. Friends and co-workers often give each other small gifts like chocolates or cards to show they are important to each other. Some companies even buy their employees donuts or chocolates on this day. Primary schools host Valentine parties. Children make cards or bring candy for each other and drop them into "Valentine boxes" during the parties. If you have a sweet tooth then you will enjoy Valentine's day!

St. Patricks Day

  • Celebrated on March 17th.
  • Holiday Type: Observed

St. Patrick's day is the celebration of one of Irelands' patron saints. St Patrick was born in England and is credited with bringing Christianity to parts of Ireland. There is also a story of the miracle of him banishing all of the snakes from Ireland. The holiday is now celebrated on the day of his death around 460 AD. St. Patrick's day is celebrated in many ways and is now considered a secular holiday.

One of the most popular ways to celebrate is to wear green. Many stores stock St. Patrick's items, such as T-shirts, hats glasses, and other clothing items. Big cities will host large and elaborate parades with an Irish theme. Going out to dinner at local Irish bars and restaurants and eating Irish themed meals while listing to Irish music is a common form of celebration. Corned beef and cabbage and green beer (beers with a green dye added for color) are common foods that are enjoyed.

One of the most famous events takes place in Chicago. Chicago has celebrated its Irish roots by dying the Chicago River green! This attracts locals and tourists alike who watch the river transform for the festivities.

Texas Tech Trivia! On March 7th, 1939, a group of petroleum engineering students on a field trip discovered a stone monument, that had a striking resemblance to a missing piece of the famous Blarney Stone which disappeared from Blarney Castle (Ireland) in 1659. Testing later revealed that it was indeed the missing piece of the Blarney Stone. On St. Patrick's Day in 1939, Texas Tech President Clifford B. Jones and Engineering Society President Dosh McCreary unveiled the Blarney Stone Monument, which today sits in front of the old electrical engineering building. Today legend says that if two seniors kiss in front of the stone they will be gifted with eloquent speech.


  • Celebrated on Easter Sunday (the date changes according to the Equinox)
  • Holiday Type: Observed

Easter is traditionally a Christan holiday that celebrates the resurrection of the Christian prophet Jesus Christ. In the new testament of the Bible, it is written that three days after his death on the cross Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a 40-day event of fasting, prayer, and sacrifice. During Lent, it is customary to give up a pleasure, which is different for everyone. Some people give up a favorite food or habit. Easter Sunday is not celebrated on a set day every year but instead is celebrated after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox.

Easter has many traditions associated with it. Easter is a significant day and in many ways defies the religions belief that Jesus was the son of God who rose from the dead after dying on the cross. Attending church is an important way to pray and celebrate with the community. Different branches of Christianity also have their own traditions when it comes to celebrating, so it can vary from church to church. Churches generally also host festivities after services such as Easter egg hunts for children and pot-luck lunches, consisting of ham, deviled eggs, potatoes, vegetables and pies.

Like Christmas, you do not have to be Christan to partake in Easter celebrations. Easter has become more secular over the years and now many people enjoy Easter lunch and painting Easter eggs. Children will receive chocolate and small gifts from the Easter Bunny. Chocolates come in the shapes of eggs, rabbits, and baby chicks. The word Easter originates from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. For this reason, many of the symbols associated with this holiday are those of new-birth and spring.

Memorial Day

  • Celebrated on the last Monday in February
  • Holiday Type: Federal

Memorial Day is a day used in the United States to remember the men and women who gave their lives during military service. On this day the family of fallen soldiers visit their graves and place American flags on them. It is a solemn time to remember the price of freedom and to thank the soldiers who gave their lives for their country. In more recent times people have taken to celebrating the long weekend and hosting picnics and BBQs'. Many people view this holiday as the beginning of the summer season and take to lakes and parks to spend time with family.

Independence Day (The 4th of July)

  • Celebrated on July 4th.
  • Holiday Type: Federal

The 4th of July is a celebration of the United States' independence from the British in 1776, at the end of the Revolutionary War. The war began in April of 1775 when colonists in New England began to fight for their freedom from the English. On July 4th, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was finalized, stating the desire of the people to form their own government and to separate from the crown.

Today we celebrate our freedom with large parades, BBQs, pool parties, fireworks, and by wearing red, white ,and blue. Lubbock has a large parade called the 4th on Broadway, with a festival afterward. Family and friends get together and spend time outside cooking hot dogs and hamburgers. There are also many firework shows in the evenings to enjoy! Be sure to wear your American flag memorabilia or fly your flag high on this day.

Labor Day

  • Celebrated on the first Monday of September.
  • Holiday Type: Federal

First celebrated in 1882, Labor Day was created by the American Labor Union to create a holiday that celebrated the hard workers of the American economy. Today it is still seen as such but has also become the last long weekend before the Fall and Winter seasons. For this reason, many people celebrate by hosting BBQs, going to the pool, lighting fireworks, taking vacations, or trips to the lake. American football season also begins around and sometimes on Labor Day.


Celebrated on October 31st

Holiday Type: Observed

Halloween is a very large and widely celebrated holiday in the U.S. It is not uncommon to see Halloween decorations being stocked in some stores around August. Halloween is celebrated primarily in large community groups, among friends and family, as well as workplaces and schools.

Halloween originated with the Celtic festival, Samhain. With the "dark" part of the year approaching the Celts believed that between the barrier between the world of the living and the world of spirits dissolved and that during October 31st and November 1st it was thinnest. As a result, people would wear costumes, light bonfires, and carve faces into gourds to keep evil spirits away. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st All Saints Day, a day in which to honor the saints. Eventually, All Saints Day incorporated some traditions from Samhain, which became known as All Hallows Eve. Today it is called Halloween.

Halloween is celebrated in a myriad of ways. Celebrations often begin a few weeks before October 31st. People host Halloween parties in which people dress up in costumes (it is common for adults to dress up in costumes). Costume contests, spooky food designs, and decorations are one of many aspects of these parties. In recent years several T.V shows ranging from sitcoms to cooking shows have started hosting Halloween specials. Pumpkin carving is a popular past time. Pumpkin- flavored foods exploded in popularity in recent years. Pumpkin-flavored food ranging from the popular pumpkin spiced lattes to pumpkin spiced Poptarts. Be sure to give these a try while here!

Trick or treating is a popular past time for children. Children wear costumes and go house to house in neighborhoods to collect candy, yelling "trick or treat" when the person opens their door. Scary movies are also fun for those who want to get scared but stay at home. There are even several Halloween movies, that are not scary for children. The haunted house has become a huge industry in the U.S. Lubbock has a Haunted theme part, Nightmare on 19th Street, which is comprised of several haunted houses with different themes. Friends get together and laugh at each other as they jump and scream navigating the houses.

Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead): From October 31st to November 1st is the Mexican celebration Dia de Los Muertos. The U.S has a large Mexican-American population, especially in Texas. Dia de Los Muertos is a time for prayer and to remember family and friends who have passed away. It is celebrated in three parts, Oct. 31st is Halloween, November 1st is a day of children and All Saints Day, and November 3rd is the Day of the Dead. During these days the spirits of lost ones return to the living world to be with their families.

In memory, families put up altars with pictures of their family and friends who have passed away, along with each person's favorite personal belongings. Marigolds are scattered around the gravesite, in a path to the alters, and are seen as a guide to help the spirits return home. There are parades, food, and music. People paint their faces in colorful skull designs and dress up. This is seen as a time to celebrate the lives of those now gone and are still alive in memory and spirit.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
  • Holiday Type: Federal

Thanksgiving day is a day to take time to reflect on what you are thankful for. Families gather together at the dinner table in a feast and celebrate. Traditional Thanksgiving foods include pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, turkey, stuffing, bread, and potatoes. There are parades across the country, including the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which should not be missed! Thanksgiving is a family-centered holiday that also marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is a day were stores post special sales and bring in large crowds of shoppers. Some shoppers even line up as early as 3 am to await the stores opening and to get the best deals.

Thanksgiving originated in 1621 when early New England colonists and the Wampanoag Native Americans shared a Fall harvest fest. A year before when the colonists who had just arrived in the area after a long voyage and harsh winter were greeted by Native Americans who taught the colonists how to cultivate corn (a crop indigenous to North America), farm and catch fish. They also taught them about the land, and which plants and animals were safe and which to avoid. In November of 1621 after their first successful crop, the colonists decided to celebrate with a three-day feast and invited their new allies to join them.

Today Thanksgiving is celebrated as a national holiday, but there is some controversy as to whether this is a day to truly celebrate. There is a long history of war, and bloodshed between the Native Americans and the early colonists, as well as with generations to come. The Native Americans were subject to disease and abuse brought by colonists and many feel this should not be a day of celebration, but a day of mourning.


Celebrated on December 25th

Holiday type: Federal

Christmas is not only a National holiday but a worldwide holiday as well. Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian prophet, Jesus Christ. Christmas is a very old holiday that today is a combination of many different traditions and festivals from several different cultures. Christmas is part of the "Holiday Season". In the U.S there are many different religions and cultures.

The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah also takes place in December, along with Kwanzaa. For this reason, many people call December the Holiday season, to respect all holidays taking place during this time.

Today, you do not have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas! Many people who are not Christian still participate in Christmas traditions, and look at the season as a time to be thankful and to give gifts to others. Many charities accept donations during this time, and part of Christmas is doing good for others and charity.

There are many Christmas traditions to be enjoyed in December! Christmas is no longer celebrated on just Christmas day but is often a month-long celebration. Offices and schools will host parties. Christmas movies start showing on TV and on streaming services like Netflix. It is traditional to decorate your home, with a Christmas tree, hanging stockings by the fireplace, and putting up Christmas lights.

Before Christmas children visit Santa Clause and ask for presents. On Christmas eve night Santa Clause is said to fly his sleigh all across the world to deliver presents to good boys and girls. He slides down the chimney and leaves presents under the Christmas tree, but you better be good! Santa knows who has been naughty or nice and if you have been naughty you will get coal in your stocking! Children leave cookies and milk for Santa as a thank you. Some children even leave carrots and apples to give to this magical flying reindeer! How thoughtful!

Christmas also includes traditional foods, like roast turkey or ham, bread, potatoes, cookies, gingerbread cookies, hot cocoa, candy canes.


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History.com Editors (2020). "Halloween 2020." https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween.

History.com Editors (2019). "Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos)." https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/day-of-the-dead.

History.com Editors (2020). "Thanksgiving 2020." https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving.

Timeanddate.com (2020). "Holidays and Observances in United States in 2020." https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/.