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American Holidays and Observances
 

NEW YEAR'S DAY: On December 31, celebrations across the nation herald the coming year. Elaborate parties, and fireworks are some of the festivities that fill the cities with excitement.

Post offices government offices and businesses are closed.

MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr. DAY: The third Monday in January is celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr Day. King was instrumental in ending apartheid in the US. His activism led to new laws that ended the practice of keeping people of different backgrounds apart. King expounded, "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Post offices and government offices are closed. Most businesses and stores are open normal hours.

PRESIDENT'S DAY: This holiday is on the third Monday of February and commemorates the birthday of George Washington, February 2, the first US president. Many States also recognise President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12, on this day. The holiday falls on a Monday so you can plan a three-day weekend.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Most businesses and stores are open normal hours.

ASH WEDNESDAY: This Christian holiday is the first day of Lent, which lasts 40 days. Ash Wednesday is a day of public penance and is marked in the Catholic Church by the priest smudging ashes on the CROSS on the forehead of each worshipper.

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ST. PATRICK'S DAY: St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain and was sold as a slave at age 16. After escaping, he went to France and became a priest. The Pope sent him to Ireland, where he successfully converted the island from Druidism to Christianity. He later became a bishop. He died March 17, A.D. 461 and is today revered by many Christians. In the USA, St. Patrick's Day is more of a secular holiday, celebrating the Irish. The most notable observance is the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City. Many people wear green, make green food and even dye beer green to celebrate the holiday. Motifs include shamrocks, Irish fairies called leprechauns, kissing the Blarney stone, and anything green.

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DAYLIGHT-SAVING TIME BEGINS: Daylight-saving time is when we turn the clocks forward one hour from standard time in order to save energy. During the long days of spring and summer, we are awake during daylight and use less electricity. This idea of daylight-saving time has been around a long time, but was widely instituted in the USA in 1966. There are still areas where they do not observe daylight-saving time, like Hawaii, parts of Indiana and most of Arizona. If your area uses daylight-saving time, the clocks should be set forward one hour the first Sunday of April at 2 a.m. Many countries around the world utilise daylight-saving time, each to its best advantage. The change back to standard time occurs the last Sunday in October.

PALM SUNDAY: Observed the Sunday before Easter, this Christian holiday celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Processions and ceremonies include giving palm leaves to worshippers, which they keep through the year.

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PASSOVER: This holiday is a celebration of the Jewish people's freedom from Egyptian slavery more than 3,000 years ago. Passover refers to the story where the Egyptians planned to kill the first born sons of the Hebrews. Lambs' blood on the doorpost of each Hebrew home allowed the Angel of Death to pass over their homes and save their children, and the Egyptians' sons died instead. Passover is celebrated with a feast called a seder, which includes specific foods that are symbols for their hardships and joys of their deliverance.

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GOOD FRIDAY: The Friday before Easter commemorates the Crucifixion of Jesus.

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EASTER: Christian churches celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. The origins of the religious holiday can be traced to several places. Likely it is an adaptation from the pagan observance of the Spring Equinox, which celebrated fertility, the returning sun, and the resurrection of nature after winter. The symbols often associated with Easter are rabbits, chicks, eggs, lilies and new clothes, especially a bonnet. Parades are held, children get gifts of candy, and Easter egg hunts are enjoyed by many.

Some stores are closed or have limited hours.

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER: This is a day set aside to pray for the nation. It is designated as the first Thursday of May, and is a nondenominational observance. Prayer breakfasts, youth rallies and church services or vigils are traditional. There is a nationally Broadcast Concert of Prayer on TV and radio.

Businesses and stores are open normal hours.

ARMED FORCES DAY: Armed Forces Day is a unification of Army, Air Force and Navy Days. This day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May and is a time when we honor and pay tribute to the men and women who serve around the world, with dedication and diligence as protectors of peace and freedom.

Businesses and stores are open normal hours.

MEMORIAL DAY: This is a federal holiday dedicated to the memory of all who have died in wars. Somber celebrations include speeches, parades and the decoration of veterans' graves with flags and wreaths.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Businesses are closed. Stores may have limited hours.

FLAG DAY: This day commemorates the adoption of the stars and stripes as the national flag, June 14, 1777. It became a federal observance in 1949 and is a holiday in Pennsylvania.

Businesses and stores are open normal hours.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: This is often referred to as the Fourth of July and commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Celebrations include parades, picnics and evening fireworks. It is a day to celebrate patriotism.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Stores may have limited hours.

LABOUR DAY: This federal holiday is observed the first Monday of September and was first celebrated in 1882. It pays tribute to the American worker, who creates much of the nation's social and economic achievement.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Many businesses are closed. Stores may have limited hours.

COLUMBUS DAY: This federal holiday is observed the second Monday in October. It commemorates Christopher Columbus landing in the New World in 1492.

Businesses and stores are open normal hours.

DAYLIGHT-SAVING TIME ENDS: Daylight-saving time is when we turn the clocks forward one hour from standard time, in order to save energy. During the long days of spring and summer, we are awake during daylight and use less electricity. This idea of saving daylight has been around a long time, but here in the US was widely instituted in 1966. There are still areas where they do not observe Daylight Saving Time, specifically Hawaii, parts of Indiana, and most of Arizona. If your area uses DST, the clocks revert back to standard time in October. Your clocks should be set back one hour the last Sunday of October at 2 a.m.

HALLOWEEN: Halloween has its origins in pre-Christian and Christian rituals. The eve of the Celtic New Year is Oct. 31 and according to the Celts, the time when ghosts and spirits walked with the living. The next day, November 1, is known as All Saints Day, or All Hallows' Day, and the day before All Hallows' Eve. The word Halloween comes from that. The Irish immigrants brought the celebration to America in the 1800s. Today, children and adults dress up as everything from the traditional witch or ghost to presidents or pieces of fruit. The kids may go door to door and receive candy at the phrase Trick or Treat, hence the tradition is called trick or treating. Occasionally, pranks are pulled, but most are harmless. Halloween motifs include witches, black cats, bats, ghosts, spiders and scary things and pumpkins carved as jack-o'-lanterns.

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ELECTION DAY: Every four years, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is set aside for electing the president. Most states also have elections on this day. A few States have this as a legal holiday.

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VETERANS DAY: Originally called Armistice Day, Nov. 11 commemorated the end of World War I and the veterans who served in the war. Sadly, we were to engage in many more wars and conflicts, and in 1954, President Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. On Veterans Day, there are ceremonies and speeches and honour is paid to veterans at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. There are also quiet vigils at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. At 11 am., most Americans observe a moment of silence, remembering those who fought for peace.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Most businesses and stores are open normal hours.

THANKSGIVING: Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November and has its origin in a harvest feast. The Native Americans taught the early American colonists how to grow corn and other crops in the unfamiliar soil. They showed them how to hunt and fish. In the fall, a feast was planned in thanks for the bountiful harvest, and the Native Americans were invited.

Post offices and government offices are closed on Thursday and Friday. Most businesses are closed both days. Most stores are closed on Thursday, but are open extended hours on Friday; this is considered the busiest shopping day of the year.

PEARL HARBOUR DAY: This day recalls the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which compelled the USA to enter World War -II. The Americans honor those who died that day.

Businesses and stores are open normal hours.

CHRISTMAS EVE: Many families have traditional activities for this night. Some may have special dinners, others tell Christmas stories, many go to church festivities, and there are always those doing last-minute shopping.

Post offices and government offices may close early. Many businesses are closed or close early. Stores may have limited hours.

CHRISTMAS: This is a Christian holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ.

Post offices and government offices are closed. Businesses and stores are closed.

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Parties abound on New Year's Eve, a night to celebrate the past year and the beginning of a new one.

Post offices and government offices may close early. Many businesses are closed or close early. Stores may have limited hour.
 

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