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Major U.S. Holidays

The following holidays are days when many businesses, schools, and banks are closed. Below are small descriptions of what each holiday entails in the U.S.

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Federal Holidays: 

New Year’s Day (January 1)

The celebration, marking the first day of the New Year, occurs at midnight on December 31st with parties, and special events. Typically San Diego hosts an array of events, specially in the downtown area. Many enjoy watching the New York City The Times Square Ball Drop on TV.

The Tournament of Roses (Rose Parade) is an iconic New Year’s Day tradition hosted in nearby in Pasadena, CA (near Los Angeles) on January 1st. The parade includes a competition of flfloral-decorated floats, music bands, and much more.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King's advanced civils rights through emphasis of power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance. We celebrate the birthday of this civil rights leader on the third Monday in January.

Presidents’ Day (3rd Monday in February)

Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February, this holiday honors the birthdays of the first U.S. president, George Washington (February 22) and President Abraham Lincoln (February 12), however it is also a day to honor/celebrate all Presidents.

Cesar Chavez Day (March 31)

A California state holiday to honor the labor activism of Cesar Chavez on behalf of farm workers. UC San Diego typically observes the holiday the last friday of the month.

Memorial Day (last Monday in May)

Commemorates U.S. soldiers who have died in wars. It is customary to decorate their graves with flowers or flags on this day. 

Juneteenth (June 19)

The Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863, many were enslaved in states where slavery continued or where they did not know that they were free. On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger informed more than 250,000 slaves in Texas that they were legally freed. The now annual celebration of Juneteenth began a year later on June 19, 1866.

Also known as “Freedom Day,” “Emancipation Day” or “Jubilee,” Juneteenth is one of our country’s oldest celebrations of the abolition of slavery.

Independence Day "4th of July" (July 4)

A day of parades, picnics, and fireworks, celebrating the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776.

San Diego is known for celebrating by hosting the Big Bay Boom! The Big Bay Boom is a firework show thats lasts about 15 or so minutes and can be seen from various areas in San Diego.

Labor Day (first Monday in September)

Celebrated on the first Monday in September honoring the importance of contributions of the workforce and labor organizations in the U.S.

Veteran’s Day (November 11)

This holiday honors veterans of all wars. Many times celebrated with parades and family gatherings. Veterans day is also on Armistice Day and Remembrance day which marks the treaty date ending World War I.

Holiday is also known as Armistice Day.

Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday of November)

Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November with a huge traditional dinner consisting of a roasted stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin pie. The custom dates back to the pilgrims in 1621 that gave thanks for a their harvest and the Native Americans who taught them agricultural cultivation.

Many celebrate Thanksgiving by volunteering their time or donating food.

Christmas (December 25)

A holiday of gift-giving, family reunions, Santa Claus, feasting, and decorated Christmas trees based on a Christian tradition.

Many enjoy tracking Santa with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In the 1950s an advertisement misprinted a phone number to call Santa, instead accidentally listed the number to NORAD. A colonel answered the phone only to find a child on the other line inquiring about Santa. The NORAD team continued to answer the phone, and it became a tradition that the NORAD team tracks Santa.

In San Diego many enjoy exploring Balboa Parks December Nights as the park is decorated with many decorated trees, food vendors and many activities.

Major Events in the U.S.: 

There are many major events in the U.S. that are not official holidays but play a significant part in U.S. culture.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Black Friday takes place on the friday following Thanksgiving. Many stores offer high discounts on items and many times the stores open at midnight. Some stores choose to even open on Thanksgiving day in the afternoon with the idea for customers to go shopping after their Thanksgiving meal.

Cyber Monday takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving. Many stores offer discounts for online shopping typically on electronics.

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League typically hosted the first Sunday in February. It is celebrated with finger food like chips, guacamole, chicken wings, pizza, dips, and much more.

For many, the special commercials and halftime concert are just as fun as the game. Companies pay over 2 million dollars for a 30 second spot to host a commercial during the Super Bowl so the commercials try to be as memorable as possible due to the high vierwership. Don't be surprised if someone asks you for your favorite superbowl commercial!

Football Basics: Football 101 handout.

Match Day

Match Day refers to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) mechanism for matching applicants looking for U.S. medical residency programs. Match day is typically the third Friday of March when results are posted. 

Spring Break

Spring break is a vacation period in early spring at universities and schools. 

Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on October 31st. Halloween has evolved to include going door to door knocking in a costume asking for candy (trick-or-treating), carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, scary decorations, and eating candy.

San Diego's Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego hosts haunted houses and many fun activities.

Valentines Day

Valentines Day is celebrated on February 14, people exchange cards, candy or flowers with their loved one. 

St. Patricks Day

St. Patricks Day is celebrated on March 17, it has evolved to be a day to wear green, eat and drink with friends. 

In San Diego there is typically a parade, Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego, and many local businesses sell green items such as green bagels, beer, milk shakes, etc. 

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras refers the Carnival celebration, beginning on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which is reflected by eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual lent sacrifices and fasting of the Christian lent season. The city of New Orleans is known for their Mardi Gras events. However, San Diego's Gaslamp District typically hosts a large festival each year.

Also known as Fat Tuesday.

Mothers Day

Mothers and mother figures are celebrated on the second Sunday in May. 

Fathers Day

Father's and father figures are celebrated on the third Sunday of June