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Legal holidays

legal holidays

The first day of January is New Year’s Day. This federal holiday celebrates the beginning of each New Year. People in the U.S. sometimes spend this day watching college football games and parades. People celebrate the evening before New Year's Day called New Year's Eve.


On the third Monday in January, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a federal holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked to change laws so that all people in the U.S. would be treated fairly. He worked for change in the 1950s and 60s when many states had laws separating black and white people. Martin Luther King taught people to use peaceful demonstrations to change laws, instead of violence. Many laws were changed because of his work. Many people worked with him in the hope that the U.S. could be a fair country for all people.


We celebrate Presidents’ Day on the 3rd Monday of February as a federal holiday commemorating the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.. We call George Washington “the father of our country” because he was the American general in the Revolutionary War who led us to victory against England. He was elected our first president. Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president. He kept our country together during the Civil War when the Southern states wanted to form a separate country. Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation.


The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. Since 1868, this federal holiday has honored the Union Civil War soldiers who died. Now, we remember all soldiers who died for this country. People decorate soldiers’ graves. Many people also decorate the graves of their families.


The Fourth of July is a very important holiday in the U.S. We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence by representatives of the thirteen American Colonies. On July 4, 1776, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, well-known patriots, declared the independence of the thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. This holiday is considered the `birthday of the United States of America.’ It is the greatest non-religious holiday in the U.S. We celebrate this day with fireworks and parades.


September has one federal holiday, Labor Day. It honors all working people in the U.S. and Canada. It began with a New York City parade in 1882 and is now celebrated on the first Monday in September.


The 2nd Monday of October is Columbus Day, celebrating the historic trip of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492. Because Columbus was Italian, this federal holiday is especially important to Italian-Americans but may not be celebrated in all states.


November 11th is Veteran’s Day. This federal holiday honors the soldiers who fought in World War I and those who fought for the U.S. in all wars. We celebrate by displaying the American flag from our homes, having parades and decorating graves with flowers and flags.


Thanksgiving Day is the 4th Thursday in November and a federal holiday. On this day we remember how the Indians helped the Pilgrims by teaching them how to farm and hunt. On this day, we give thanks for food, our country, and our families.


December 25th is Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus. Many people decorate their houses with Christmas trees and lights and give presents to family members. Children hang stockings for Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) to fill with gifts. Christmas is a federal holiday.