Each of the 50 American states established its own holidays. The federal government, though the President and Congress, can legally set holidays only for federal employees and for the District of Columbia. Most states, however, accept the federal legal holidays. Holidays for all federal offices, most state and local government offices, and many (not all) businesses, are:
- New Year's Day (January 1)
- Martin Luther King's birthday (third Monday in January)
- Washington's Birthday, sometimes called "President's Day" (third Monday in February)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
- Independence Day (July 4)
- Labor Day (first Monday in September)
- Columbus Day (second Monday in October)
- Veteran's Day (November 11)
- Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)
- Christmas Day (December 25)
Most states have holidays which are observed, but are not necessary "legal". The name of the holiday (e.g. Confederate Memorial Day) goes on the calendar (last Monday in April) for a state (Alabama, Mississippi), yet this does not mean that businesses are always closed or children let out of school. President or Congress may proclaim a special day or week in order to bring attention to a certain concern, interest group, or problem.
The many religious holidays such as Good Friday, Hanukkah, or Ramadan are observed, of course, by the religious, but they have no national, or official legal status. Rather, each state sets its own laws, and whether or not an employee is given time off also depends on labour agreements.
There are many traditional holidays, observed by a large number of Americans, which are also neither legal nor official. Among these are St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day (not just people with Irish roots celebrate it), Mother's Day and Halloween Day (the last day of October).
The three holidays which were first observed in the US, but have now spread elsewhere are Labor Day (May 1), Thanksgiving, and Mother's Day.
Perhaps the two "most American" of the holidays are the Fourth of July - Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The Fourth of July is the day of signing the Declaration of Independence. It is like a big, nationwide birthday party. Some towns and cities have parades with banks and flags. The nation's birthday is also the nation's greatest annual summer party.
Thanksgiving is a day for families to come together. Traditional foods are prepared for the feast - turkey or ham, corn dishes, breads and rolls, and a pumpkin pie. At the same time, Thanksgiving is a solemn occasion, a day to remember the many who are less well off, in American and throughout the world.