Day (Jan.1) - Federal holiday. The
celebration of the new year on January 1st is a
relatively new phenomenon. The earliest
recording of a new year celebration is believed
to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and
was celebrated around the time of the vernal
equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates
tied to the seasons were also used by various
ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians,
and Persians began their new year with the fall
equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the
Luther King Jr. Birthday (third Monday) -
Federal holiday. Observed, on a day other than
his date of birth. Civil rights leader. It
became a federal holiday in 1986.
New Year - (The Chinese year 4710 begins on
Jan. 23, 2012.) The most important celebration
in the Chinese calendar. Chinese months are
reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month
beginning on the darkest day. New Year
festivities traditionally start on the first day
of the month and continue until the fifteenth,
when the moon is brightest. In China, the New
Year is a time for family reunions. In the
United States, however, many early Chinese
immigrants arrived without their families, and
found a sense of community by celebrating the
holiday through neighborhood associations.
Day (Feb 2) - The most-watched weather
forecast of the year Legend has it that if the
groundhog sees his shadow, he'll return to his
hole, and winter will last another six weeks.
Birthday (Feb 12) - Born on Feb. 12, 1809,
in a log cabin in backwoods Hardin co., Ky. (now
Larue co.). This day was first formally observed
in Washington, DC, in 1866, when both houses of
Congress gathered for a memorial address in
tribute to the assassinated president. In some
places, it is combined with Washington's
Birthday and celebrated as President's Day.
Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) - Originally a
pagan festival, the holiday eventually was
recast as a Christian feast day in honor of St.
Valentineóbut there are at least three different
early saints by that name. How the day became
associated with romance remains obscure, and is
further clouded by various fanciful legends.
Day (Third Monday) - Federal holiday.
Washington's Birthday, now commonly known as a
combined holiday to celebrate all presidents
birthdays. The actual date of Washington's
birthday is Feb. 22. It is a common
misconception that the federal holiday was
changed to "Presidents' Day. Only Washington is
commemorated by the federal holiday; 13 states,
however, officially celebrate "Presidents' Day."
( a day before Ash Wednesday) - Shrove Tuesday
marks the end of the carnival season, which once
began on Epiphany but is now usually celebrated
the last three days before Lent. In France, the
day is known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), and
celebrations are held in several American
cities, particularly New Orleans. The day is
sometimes called Pancake Tuesday by the English
because fats, which were prohibited during Lent,
had to be used up.
Wednesday (seventh Wednesday before Easter )
- The first day of Lent, which lasts 40 days.
Having its origin sometime before A.D. 1000, it
is a day of public penance and is marked in the
Roman Catholic Church by the burning of the
palms blessed on the previous year's Palm
Sunday. With the ashes from the palms the priest
then marks a cross with his thumb upon the
forehead of each worshipper. The Anglican Church
and a few Protestant groups in the United States
also observe the day, but generally without the
use of ashes.
(14th day of Adar) - The joyous holiday of Purim
celebrates the salvation of the Jews from the
wicked Haman, through the leadership of Queen
Esther and her cousin Mordecai. The holiday is
marked by the reading of the Book of Esther (the
Megillah), by the exchange of gifts, and by
donations to the poor.
Patrick's day (March 17) - St. Patrick,
patron saint of Ireland, has been honored in
America since the first days of the nation.
Perhaps the most notable observance is the
annual St. Patrick's Day parade in New York
City. Ironically, for almost its entire history
St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated with far
greater fanfare in Boston or New York than it
was in Galway or Dublin. The first St. Patrick's
Day parade took place in New York City on March
17, 1762. Irish soldiers serving in the British
colonial army staged a parade celebrating their
Fool's day (April 1) - The origins of April
Fool's Day are uncertain. Some see it as a
celebration related to the turn of the seasons,
while others believe it stems from the adoption
of a new calendar.
(15th day of Nissan) - The Feast of the
Passover, also called the Feast of Unleavened
Bread. The holiday of Pesach, or
Passover, celebrates God's freeing the Jews from
bondage in Egypt through the leadership of Moses
also known as the celebration of the Exodus. As
the Jews fled, they ate unleavened bread, and
from that time the Jews have allowed no
leavening in their houses during Passover, bread
being replaced by matzoh.
(first Sunday after March 21) - Christians
celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection
of Jesus Christ. Some aspects of modern Easter
celebrations, however, pre-date Christianity.
The celebration date was fixed by the Council of
Nicaea in A.D. 325. According to the Venerable
Bede, Easter derives its name from Eostre, an
Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring.
(May 1) - Although celebrated with far greater
fanfare in other countries, May Day in the
United States is a celebration of Spring as well
as a day honoring organized labor.
Mayo (May 5) - Looking for a reason to
celebrate? Break out a bottle of tequila, it's
Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May). Although it is
often referred to as Mexico's Independence Day,
Cinco de Mayo actually marks the 1862 battle in
Puebla when a small, outnumbered Mexican army
defeated the French, a turning point in Mexico's
struggle for independence. Ironically, it is a
holiday that is in fact more beloved by
Americans than by Mexicans.
(May 8) - VE-DAY marks formal celebration of the
Allies' victory in Europe during World War II.
On Mar. 7, 1945, the Western Allies crossed the
Rhine and overran West Germany. German collapse
came after a meeting (Apr. 25) of the Western
and Russian armies at Torgau in Saxony, and
Hitler's death. The unconditional surrender of
Germany was signed at Rheims on May 7 and
ratified at Berlin on May 8.
Day (second Sunday) - Mother's Day in the
United States originated in 1872 with Julia Ward
Howe, a writer, abolitionist, and suffragist who
wrote the words to "Battle Hymn of the
Republic." In 1911, President Woodrow Wilson
made it a national holiday. The custom of
honoring mothers goes back at least as far as
17th-century England, which celebrated (and
still celebrates) Mothering Sunday.
Day ( last Monday) - Memorial Day became a
federal holiday in 1971. It originated in 1868,
when Union General John A. Logan designated a
day in which the graves of Civil War soldiers
would be decorated. Originally known as
Decoration Day, the holiday was changed to
Memorial Day within 20 years, becoming a holiday
dedicated to the memory of all war dead.
(June 14) - This day commemorates the adoption
by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, of
the Stars and Stripes as the U.S. flag. Although
it is a legal holiday only in Pennsylvania,
President Truman, on Aug. 3, 1949, signed a bill
requesting the president to call for its
observance each year by proclamation.
Day (third Sunday) - The exact origin of the
holiday is not clear, but it was first
celebrated June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Wash. In
1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a
proclamation making Father's Day official.
Independence Day (July 4) - The day of the
adoption of the Declaration of Independence in
1776, celebrated in all states and territories.
The observance began the next year in
(ninth month of the Islamic calendar) (begins
July 19 for 2012) - For more than a billion
Muslims around the world-including some 8
million in North America-Ramadan is a "month of
blessing" marked by prayer, fasting, and
charity. This year Ramadan precedes Christmas
and Hanukkah. But while in many places these
holidays have become widely commercialized,
Ramadan retains its focus on self-sacrifice and
devotion to Allah (God).
(first Monday) - Federal holiday. Labor Day was
first celebrated in New York in 1882 under the
sponsorship of the Central Labor Union,
following the suggestion of Peter J. McGuire, of
the Knights of Labor, that the day be set aside
in honor of labor.
Hashanah (Sept. 16, 2012) - Jews will begin
celebrating one of their most important
religious holidays, Rosh Hashanah. It remembers
the creation of the world. In Hebrew, Rosh
Hashanah means the "head of the year." It is
also called the Feast of the Trumpets. The
blowing of a ram's horn, a shofar,
proclaims Rosh Hashanah, and summons Jews to
religious services. Jews used the ram's horn as
a trumpet in Biblical times to announce the new
moon, holidays, and war. Today, a variety of
horns are used, including curved antelope horns.
(ten days after Rosh Hashanah started) - This
day marks the end of the Ten Days of Penitence
that began with Rosh Hashanah. It is described
in Leviticus as a "Sabbath of rest," and
synagogue services begin the preceding sundown,
resume the following morning, and continue to
Day (second Monday) - Federal holiday.
Commemorates Christopher Columbus's landing in
the New World in 1492. Quite likely the first
celebration of Columbus Day was that organized
in 1792 by the Society of St. Tammany, or the
Columbian Order, widely known as Tammany Hall.
(Oct 31) - Eve of All Saints' Day, formerly
called All Hallows and Hallowmass. Halloween is
traditionally associated in some countries with
customs such as bonfires, masquerading, and the
telling of ghost stories. These are old Celtic
practices marking the beginning of winter.
Day (Nov. 1) - A Roman Catholic and Anglican
holiday celebrating all saints, known and
Day (first Tuesday) - Since 1845, by act of
Congress, Tuesday is the date for choosing
presidential electors. State elections are also
generally held on this day. The date is a legal
holiday in certain states.
day (Nov 11) - Federal holiday. Armistice
Day, was established in 1926 to commemorate the
signing in 1918 of the armistice ending World
War I. On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to
Veterans Day to honor all men and women who have
served America in its armed forces. Official,
national ceremonies for Veterans Day center
around the Tomb of the Unknowns. To honor these
men, symbolic of all Americans who gave their
lives in all wars, an Army honor guard, the 3d
U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard), keeps day and
Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday) - Federal
holiday. Observed by act of Congress (1941), it
was the first such national proclamation issued
by President Lincoln in 1863, on the urging of
Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's
Book. Most Americans believe that the holiday
dates back to the day of thanks ordered by
Governor Bradford of Plymouth Colony in New
England in 1621, but scholars point out that
days of thanks stem from ancient times.
Sunday (four Sundays before Christmas) -
Advent is the season in which the faithful must
prepare themselves for the coming, or advent, of
the Savior on Christmas.
(Dec. 9 in 2012) - This festival was instituted
by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. to celebrate the
purification of the Temple of Jerusalem. It had
been desecrated three years earlier by Antiochus
Epiphanes, who set up a pagan altar and offered
sacrifices to Zeus Olympius. In Jewish homes, a
lamp or candle is lighted on each night of the
(Dec 25) - The most widely celebrated holiday of
the Christian year, Christmas is observed as the
anniversary of the birth of Jesus. Christmas
customs are centuries old. The mistletoe, for
example, comes from the Druids, who, in hanging
the mistletoe, hoped for peace and good fortune.
Comparatively recent is the Christmas tree,
first set up in Germany in the 17th century.
Colonial Manhattan Islanders introduced the name
Santa Claus, a corruption of the Dutch name St.
Nicholas, who lived in fourth-century Asia
(Dec. 26 in 2012) - This secular seven-day
holiday was created by Black Studies professor
Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 in the U.S., to
reaffirm African values and serve as a communal
celebration among African peoples in the
diaspora. Modeled on first-fruits celebrations,
it reflects seven principles, the Nguzo Saba:
unity, self-determination, collective work and
responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose,
creativity, and faith.
Eve (Dec. 31) - Closing out the year and
welcoming in a new year. Traditions include a
resolution, something you vow to improve or to
perform faithfully that you have not otherwise
performed very well or accurately in the
preceding year(s). A good way to define a New
Year's resolution is ... a commitment that a
person makes to one or more personal goals or
projects; or the reforming of a habit.