Major Holidays and Observances Explained
New Year’s Day (January 1)
Federal holiday for schools, offices and banks; stores open. New Year’s Eve, December 31, is more important to U.S. Americans than New Year’s Day. Families and friends gather together to greet the new year.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday (third Monday in January)
Federal holiday. King organized and led the U.S. civil-rights movement during the 1960s.
Valentine’s Day (February 14)
Day celebrating love and friendship by sending cards and giving candy or flowers.
Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17)
Irish immigrants brought this holiday to the U.S. in celebration of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. People celebrate by wearing green and getting together with friends.
April Fool’s Day (April 1)
As in many other countries, this day is marked by the custom of playing practical jokes on friends and colleagues.
Easter (a Sunday in March or April)
A religious holiday for Christians who believe that on this day Jesus rose from the dead. Many traditions connected with Easter include decorating brightly colored eggs and giving gifts to children.
Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May)
On this day, children honor their mothers by sending flowers, buying small gifts, and taking their mothers out to dinner.
Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
Federal holiday. Day on which those who died in military service to the country are remembered. Many families visit graves and decorate them with flowers, and the day is marked with patriotic parades. This day is considered the beginning of the summer season.
Father’s Day (third Sunday in June)
On this day, children honor their fathers by giving them cards and gifts.
Independence Day (July 4)
Federal holiday. Commemorates the day the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia in 1776. The holiday is celebrated all over the country with picnics, political speeches, and community get-togethers that culminate in fireworks displays.
Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr (dates vary each year)
Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; the month in which the Qur’an, according to tradition, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan ends with Eid ul-Fitr, with much celebration and feasts.
Labor Day (first Monday in September)
Federal holiday. In recognition of the labor movement’s contribution to the productivity of the country. This day is the last holiday of the summer season and is celebrated with picnics and other outings.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (late September/early October)
Rosh Hashanah commemorates the beginning of the Jewish New Year and is the first of the Ten Days of Penitence, which end with Yom Kippur, the most solemn of Jewish holidays. For Rosh Hashanah, families gather for a feast in which an apple is dipped in honey to express hope for a sweet year ahead. In Judaism, Yom Kippur is the day of atonement.
Halloween (October 31)
Originally a religious holiday, but now celebrated mostly as a children’s holiday. Traditions include carving out pumpkins with funny faces, as well as dressing up in costumes and going around the neighborhood to receive treats of candy, fruit and cookies.
Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November)
Federal holiday. First celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 to give thanks for the harvest and their triumph of survival over the wilderness. Now U.S. Americans give thanks for the good life they enjoy by celebrating with family and friends and enjoying turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
Hanukkah (eight days, usually in December)
Widely observed, even by non-religious Jews. Hanukkah celebrates the victory of Jewish Maccabees over their Syrian rulers in 1607 B.C. Hanukkah is marked with parties, games, gifts for children and the lighting of the eight candles of the menorah.
Christmas (December 25)
Federal holiday. Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Chris. Christmas is a holiday celebrated by a majority of U.S. Americans. Family members travel great distances to be together on this day on which gifts are exchanged and a traditional dinner is shared.
Additional Catholic holidays observed by the University
The University of Dayton is a Catholic, Marianist university. Because of this we observe and celebrate feast days in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. (This is also why you will see many statues and pictures on campus of Mary.) Our Marianist identity is an essential part of our tradition and mission. Below are two important feast days observed by the University of Dayton. The University closes on these days, in recognition of the feasts.
Feast of the Assumption (August 15)
Celebration of the assumption of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven at the end of her life, a belief held by Catholics.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8)
Celebration of the conception of Mary. Each year, the University of Dayton holds Christmas on Campus on this day, inviting hundreds of young children in the area to campus. Student organizations sponsor games and activities, and the night ends with a Catholic mass.