Holidays of the United States – Travel guide at Wikivoyage (2024)

The United States has no nationwide, mandatory public holidays, and instead has a hodgepodge of national, regional, ethnic and religious holidays that can both delight and frustrate travellers –sometimes simultaneously – as they journey around the country.

The holiday season[edit]

The time between Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November) and January 1 is commonly called "the holiday season." Many people take vacations during this period and visit family and friends. Airports, interstate highways, bus stations, and train stations will be very crowded near the major holidays. If you must travel, allow extra time to check in and clear security. This is also a major gift-giving season: most shopping malls and department stores will be crowded, especially on the day after Thanksgiving, the week before Christmas, and the day after Christmas. There are also many Christmas/holiday season parties at workplaces and between friends, though most of them are before Christmas Day as people prefer to spend that day with family and only the closest friends. Christmas Day and New Year's Day are good days to fly, as most people prefer not to travel then, so air fares are usually significantly cheaper on those days than for some time before and after, security lines are shorter and the atmosphere is more relaxed.

Also relevant to the Christmas season are the many publicly-displayed Christmas trees, the most famous of which is probably the one at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, always a very tall tree with many lights. You can generally expect public Christmas trees to be displayed at least the entire month of December through January 1.

Several cities host one or more Christmas markets, but do not expect to see as many people drinking mulled wine or staying out late as in European Christmas markets, and don't expect them to still be open much past New Year's Day, if they are even open past Christmas.

Federal holidays[edit]

Federal holidays are 11 dates designated by the U.S. federal government as official holidays. All federal government offices, post offices and banks close on federal holidays, but private businesses may choose whether or not to observe them. Nearly all states and localities observe the federal holidays; most also observe an additional handful of their own. If a federal holiday falls on a weekend, the observance will be shifted to the nearest weekday (either Friday or Monday). The festivities and major retail closings will occur on the annual date, even if it's the weekend. All U.S. embassies are closed on the federal holidays in addition to the holidays of the host country.

New Year's Day[edit]

1 January

Most non-retail businesses closed; parades; brunches and football parties. Philadelphia has a unique parade every New Year's Day called the Mummers Parade, which has roots in the city that date back to the 17th century.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day[edit]

Third Monday in January

Many government offices and banks closed; people volunteer in their communities; speeches, especially on African-American history and culture.

Presidents' Day[edit]

Third Monday in February

Officially named Washington's Birthday. Many government offices and banks closed; some non-retail businesses closed; many stores have sales, especially furniture and mattress stores.

Memorial Day[edit]

Last Monday in May

Most non-retail businesses closed; some patriotic observances; trips to beaches and parks; traditional beginning of summer tourism season.


19 June

Added as a new federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African-Americans who had been enslaved. It was on this date in 1865 when slaves in Texas were told that they were free, following President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Most government offices and some non-retail businesses are closed.

Independence Day[edit]

4 July

Known colloquially as the Fourth of July. Most non-retail businesses closed; patriotic parades and concerts, cookouts and trips to beaches and parks. Fireworks displays, both professional and amateur, which often continue well into the night or early morning. Almost every town puts on some sort of festivity to celebrate the day.

Labor Day[edit]

First Monday in September

Most non-retail businesses closed; cookouts and trips to beaches and parks; many stores have sales; traditional ending of summer tourism season. Whereas most countries celebrate Labor Day on May 1 to commemorate the Haymarket affair of 1886, the U.S. chose to celebrate it in September, due to fear that a May celebration would encourage similar Haymarket-style protests and energize the radical left.

Columbus Day[edit]

Second Monday in October

Commemorates the arrival in North America by Christopher Columbus. Many government offices and banks closed; some stores have sales. Italian-themed parades in some cities. Columbus Day can be controversial, especially among Native Americans and Latinos, and is not as widely observed as it was in the past. In some places, Columbus Day has been renamed as Indigenous People's Day, with celebrations of native cultures occurring. Other places have opted to call the day Italian Heritage Day.

Veterans Day[edit]

11 November

Government offices and banks closed; some patriotic observances. Called "Remembrance Day" in most Commonwealth countries, it has been expanded in the U.S. to celebrate all veterans of the U.S. armed forces; Memorial Day serves the purpose of recognizing war dead.


Fourth Thursday in November

Family dinners with roast turkey as the centerpiece and traditionally featuring many foodstuffs that originate from the Americas, but Thanksgiving meals vary greatly, just like Americans do. Many people fly or drive to visit extended family. New York City and Chicago host parades, Detroit and many other cities hold races. Many other smaller events fill the landscape, including a re-creation of the original Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Airports are extremely crowded on the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving. Most businesses are closed, including grocery stores and many restaurants, though the restaurants that stay open usually serve some version of a Thanksgiving dinner, so if you have no invitation to anyone's home, you can have a Thanksgiving experience, anyway. Many people spend part of this day volunteering to serve at a soup kitchen.


25 December

Families and close friends exchange gifts; Christian religious observances. Almost all businesses, grocery stores, and many restaurants closed the evening before and all day. Many offices close at noon on the 24th, with everything closed on the 25th. However, many Chinese and Jewish businesses remain open, as do movie theaters.

Other national holidays[edit]

Super Bowl Sunday[edit]

Second Sunday in February

This annual championship game of the National Football League (NFL) is the most-watched sporting event of the year. Supermarkets, bars, and electronics stores are busy, and there are many football-watching parties. If you have no-one to watch the game with and would like to do so in a festive and friendly atmosphere (unless you're rooting against the home team), this is a good time to visit a sports bar, though even bars that don't typically show sports on their TVs often show the Super Bowl.

Valentine's Day[edit]

14 February

Private celebration of romance and love. Most restaurants are crowded; more popular restaurants may require reservations made well in advance. As on Mother's Day, many restaurants raise their prices and serve only a couple of prix fixe dinner options, so if you want to eat out that day, a little extra research may be advisable to find better deals.

St. Patrick's Day[edit]

17 March

Irish-themed parades (New York's is the largest of them in the world) and parties. Expect bars to get crowded early. They will often feature themed drink specials. The wearing of green clothes or accessories is common.

Cinco de Mayo[edit]

5 May

A minor holiday in Mexico that celebrates the 1862 Battle of Puebla against the French, but a major celebration of Mexican-American culture. Expect bars to be crowded, even in places without large Mexican-American communities. Margarita specials are common on and during the leadup to this day.

Mother's Day[edit]

Second Sunday in May

Children and adults give gifts to their mothers. Most restaurants are crowded, especially for brunch and lunch; some restaurants may require reservations made well in advance. Furthermore, they commonly serve expensive, boring prix fixe meals because they are absolutely slammed and have to deal with people who eat out once a year and may have unreasonable expectations and demands on service. If you don't have to eat out on Mother's Day, try to avoid doing so.

Father's Day[edit]

Third Sunday in June

Children and adults give gifts to their fathers. Many restaurants and sporting events are crowded, although not to the same extent as Mother's Day.

Flag Day[edit]

14 June

Celebrated nationally as an observance. Also commemorates the adoption and symbolic patriotism of the American national flag that is celebrated annually in parades.


31 October

Children dress up in costume and knock on other houses' doors to get treats. There are spooky attractions, such as haunted corn mazes, hayrides and costume parties. Some small family-owned shops and restaurants may close early in the evening. Adults get in on the action too: boozy Halloween parties and bar-hopping in costume are common, often taking place on "Halloweekend": the weekend prior to October 31st. New York City has a Halloween parade that is very crowded but a lot of fun; see New York City#Parades.

Black Friday[edit]

The day after Thanksgiving

Major Christmas shopping traditionally begins, most stores have sales and many open in the very early morning (with a few now opening on Thanksgiving night). Most non-retail employees are given Friday off or take it as a vacation. This is a really good day not to shop, as shops are extremely crowded and there have been cases of crazed shoppers trampling people on that day.

New Year's Eve[edit]

31 December

Many restaurants and bars open late; lots of parties, especially in big cities. Some offices close at noon. The atmosphere is festive, so if you have no invite to a party, it's a great though crowded night to go barhopping. Be particularly mindful of drunk drivers on this night.

Ethnic or religious holidays[edit]

Chinese New Year[edit]

January or February – varies based on the lunar calendar
Main article: Chinese New Year

Also known as the Lunar New Year. Chinese-Americans hold cultural celebrations. Cities with major Chinatowns, such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, have popular parades including traditional lion dances, often accompanied by firecrackers. The Korean and Vietnamese new years also fall on the same day, with celebrations in those respective communities.

Good Friday[edit]

The Friday before Easter

Christian (especially Catholic) religious observances. Some restaurants and shops close. The governments of some states with large Catholic populations (e.g. New Jersey) observe the holiday and close government offices on this day.


A Sunday in March or April

Christian religious observances. Many fast-food restaurants are closed, but sit-down restaurants are more likely to be open. Major retailers generally open; smaller shops may or may not close. Egg-dyeing parties and the White House egg roll (actually moving eggs, not making Chinese-American egg rolls, but you probably won't be invited) are traditional, some people dress up like the Easter Bunny or wear Easter bonnets, and New York City has a huge, famous Easter parade, but Christmas is a much bigger occasion than Easter in the U.S.


Eight days around Easter – varies based on the Jewish calendar

Jewish religious observances. Many American Jews invite non-Jews to their Seder on one of the first two nights. Expect very heavy traffic on Seder afternoons and evenings in areas with large Jewish populations such as the New York Metro Area and South Florida.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the High Holidays)[edit]

September or early October –varies based on the Jewish calendar

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and many Jews have a special dinner on either the first or both nights of Rosh Hashanah that you might be invited to. Yom Kippur is a 25-hour fast, followed by a break-fast meal. It is traditional to spend all day in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, after a somewhat lengthy service the night before.


Eight days usually in December –varies based on the Jewish calendar

Also spelled Chanukah. Jewish religious observances, often culturally associated with Christmas. In cities with large Jewish populations, very big electric menorahs (candelabras) are lit, one candle for each night.


26 December– 1 January

African-American cultural observances.

Regional holidays[edit]

Groundhog Day[edit]

2 February

A tradition observed regionally that derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow, it will retreat to its den and winter will go on for six more weeks; if it does not see its shadow, spring will arrive early. There are small ceremonies throughout the eastern half of the U.S., but the most famous is held at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania and features a semi-mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil.

Mardi Gras[edit]

A Tuesday between 3 February and 9 March
See also: New Orleans Mardi Gras

A number of historically ethnically French cities and regions in the country have celebrations, particularly in Louisiana. The celebration in New Orleans is world famous.

Emancipation Day[edit]

16 April

Observed in Washington, D.C., commemorating the date that President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act. D.C. holds an Emancipation Day parade.

Patriots' Day[edit]

Third Monday in April

Observed in Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, Connecticut and North Dakota. Commemorates the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Menotomy that touched off the Revolutionary War against Britain in 1775. State offices and public schools are closed, reenactments take place in Massachusetts, the Boston Marathon is run and the Red Sox baseball team plays a home game at Fenway Park.

Pioneer Day[edit]

24 July

Celebrated in Utah. Commemorates the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities. Many local and all state-run government offices and many businesses are closed on Pioneer Day.


Begins the third Saturday of September

German-Americans are the largest ancestral group in U.S., and there are hundreds of large and small Oktoberfest celebrations held annually throughout the country, the largest being Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Alaska Day[edit]

18 October

Celebrated in Alaska and commemorates the transfer of Alaska to the United States from Russia. There is a parade in Sitka. State government offices are closed.

Stay safe[edit]

Be careful on the roads around major holidays, such as New Year's, Memorial Day, Independence Day or Thanksgiving, as well as New Year's Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, as there are more drunk drivers on the roads then.

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