List of American Holidays. Part 1: New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick's Day

This is the first part of the List of American Holidays article series. I decided to write a series of articles and describe the main holidays in the United States for those who don’t know American culture and traditions good enough. Of course most of these holidays are derived from European heritage, but there are also purely American holidays like Memorial Day, Columbus Day or Thanksgiving. Keep reading to learn more…

January 1. New Year’s Day

Before 153 B.C.E., this was not the case – the New Year was celebrated in June on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Holidays that fall on solstices usually celebrate life and death, so images of death and rebirth have always accompanied the New Year. We celebrate but also reflect on the mistakes of the past year and make “New Year’s resolution” to correct them. We turn over a leaf, meaning we decide to take improvements in our life where possible. The festivities begin on New Year’s Eve. People remember the “good old days” of the year that just ended by singing Auld Lang Syne , a song from Scotland. Translated, the title means “the good old days”.

January 15. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

Dr. King was an important African American civil rights leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He was tragically assassinated in 1968.

February 14. Valentine’s Day

One of the most important days on the list of American holidays, Saint Valentine’s Day is for lovers, although historians don’t really know which Saint Valentine was involved or why the holiday is associated with love. Though the idea probably dates to Roman times, one theory claims that English author Geoffrey Chaucer created the modern sense of the tradition. Friends and lovers offer each other candy, roses, and greeting cards; at school, children exchange heart-shaped cards with their sweethearts. St. Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas in the number of greeting cards exchanged.

Third Monday of February. Presidents Day

This holiday commemorates the birthdays of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

March 17. Saint Patrick’s Day

Though St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, he was born in Scotland in the fourth century. People wear green clothes and sometimes paint their faces green on St. Patrick’s Day. The enormous St. Patrick’s Day parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City flows like a green river. The city of Chicago goes even farther – the turn the portion of the real Chicago River green. Another important symbol associated with the Irish is the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, representing the trinity in the Christmas religion.

Dyeing the Chicago River Green on St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC

Stay tuned for the continuation of the List of American Holidays where I’ll tell about other holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween and more...

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