Here are some explanations of the some of the holidays commonly celebrated in California and the United States:

New Year's Eve/Day
January 1, Campus Holiday

In the United States, New Year’s Day is welcomed with fireworks at 12 midnight. The biggest firework celebration is held at Times Square in New York City, where the “Time Ball” descends at One Times Square at 11:59pm and reaches the ground at 12:00 midnight, welcoming New Year’s Day with a huge celebration. 

There are many other celebrations associated with the New Year’s Day. Some of them include parades. Many post-season American College Football games are played on this day. The Ice Hockey tournament called the Winter Classic is also played on this day in North America. In the United States, church services, and traditional meals are also organized. In the southern United States, black eyed peas are eaten on New Year’s Day and if eaten with green collards, it is considered to bring prosperity. 

Interesting Facts:

A tradition in Spain is for people to eat 12 grapes at midnight. This tradition represents the 12 months of the year and the happiness that is to come in the New Year. 

 In the Netherlands, they make a bonfire out of Christmas trees on the street and light fireworks. This tradition represents the idea of ‘out with the old and in with the new’.

In North America, Asia, and Europe, people eat fish on New Year’s Day and it is a symbol for moving forward, since the fish swim forward.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day
The 3rd Monday in January, Campus Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an official Federal holiday in the United States, celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Jr was a spokesman for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement.  In honor of Dr. King, many volunteer centers and volunteers throughout the country devote their time to making a difference on this day. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always celebrated on the third Monday of every January. Illinois was the first state to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday in 1973. This was 10 years before it became a national holiday.


Lincoln’s Birthday
February 12 (observed as a campus holiday on November 27)

Lincoln’s Birthday is a legal holiday that observed only in some states such as California, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York. It is celebrated on the anniversary of President Lincoln’s birth on February 12th, 1809. In other states the holiday is combined with other Presidents’ birthday and called President’s Day. The day is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. A wreath is laid out on the tomb of President Lincoln, as is for other presidents on the day of their birthdays on behalf of the current president of the United States.


Washington’s Birthday
February 16 (observed as a campus holiday on December 28)

This is a Federal Holiday celebrated in honor of the first president of the United States, George Washington. It is also a state holiday but some states know it as a different name, such President’s Day, Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday. Since the holiday is also called President’s Day, it actually doesn’t only celebrate the birthday of Washington but other presidents as well. The holiday has become a well-known sales day for stores like Macy’s and especially for car dealerships. The holiday is also a tribute to the general who created the first merit badges for common soldiers. The badge is called a Purple Heart medal, which is given to soldiers injured in action.


Cesar Chavez Day
March 31 (Campus Holiday)

Cesar Chavez Day is an official holiday celebrated only in California and Texas. This day is commemorated to promote service to the community, just like Martin Luther King day, in honor of the life and work of Cesar Chavez. Cesar Chavez was a farm worker, labor leader, and civil rights activist. As a Mexican American from Arizona, Chavez supported the rights of Hispanic workers. Although it is not a holiday, President Obama has proclaimed March 31st as Cesar Chavez Day. The first Cesar E. Chavez National Holiday was organized by a group of Los Angeles volunteers who organized and led the effort in California. It was the first legal state holiday and the day was devoted to service and learning.


Memorial Day
The last Monday in May (Campus Holiday)

Memorial Day is a Federal Holiday celebrated in the United States to remember those men and women who died in the armed forces. It is a holiday that is always celebrated on the final Monday of May.  It originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers that died during the war. By the 20th century, it was celebrated to honor all Americans who died while in military service. Memorial Day usually marks the beginning of the summer break while Labor Day marks the end of it.


Independence Day
July 4 (Campus Holiday - Observed on different days some years)

Independence Day, more commonly known as Fourth of July, is a federal holiday celebrated in the United States to commemorate the day the United States gained its independence on July 4, 1776 from Kingdom of Great Britain (now known as Great Britain). Independence Day is known for fireworks for on that day almost everyone celebrates the holiday with fireworks at night. Potato salad, baked beans, hot dogs, ice cream sodas and floats, pickles, cole slaw, macaroni and other pasta salads and hamburgers are common foods eaten on this holiday.


Labor Day
First Monday in September (Campus Holiday)

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American Labor Movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of laborers. It includes a yearly tribute to the contributions of laborers to the prosperity, strength and well-being of our country. To take advantage of the day retail shops hold huge sales. Retailers claim this day holds the second biggest sales of the year, only second to the Christmas season’s Black Friday. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a state holiday. Traditionally people stopped wearing white and seersucker on this day, as it marked the end of summer


Admission Day
September 9 (observed as a campus holiday on December 29)

Admission Day or California Admission Day is a holiday only celebrated in California and it is held on the September 9 of every year. It celebrates the admission of California into the union as the 31st state.


Veteran’s Day
November 11 (Campus Holiday) 

Veteran’s Day is an official federal holiday observed in the United States on November 11. It coincides with other holidays celebrated in other parts of the world which commemorate the end of the First World War.  This holiday is not to be confused with Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day celebrates the service of all of the people in the military. Since it is a federal holiday, most workplaces and schools are closed on this day. If Veteran’s Day falls on a Saturday, then the preceding Friday is designated as Veteran’s day and similarly if it falls on a Sunday, then Monday is celebrated as Veteran’s Day.

Interesting Facts:

Canada, Great Britain, and Canada all celebrate a version of Veteran’s Day. 

Canada and Australia celebrate Remembrance Day which pays tribute to those who lost their lives in military service.

October 31

Halloween is a holiday that is always celebrated on the night of October 31.  On this day children wear costumes and they go to people’s houses and say “Trick or Treat!” and ask for candy. On Halloween, when someone used to say “Trick or Treat!” they used to mean “Give me the candy or I will play a trick on you.”

Thanksgiving Day
November 26 (Campus Holiday)

Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States on the fourth Thursday of every November each year.  As a federal and public holiday in the U.S. Thanksgiving is a major holiday along with Christmas and New Year’s. A tradition of Thanksgiving is a Thanksgiving dinner which is served the evening of the holiday. Charity work is also done on Thanksgiving Day and food is given to the less fortunate. Another big tradition of Thanksgiving is held in New York, where every year since 1924, Macy’s holds a Thanksgiving Day Parade, which goes from Upper Side New York to the Herald Square store of Macy’s.

American Football is also important for many Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. Professional American football games are held on this day. Turkey is definitely the main food of the Thanksgiving Day dinner. There are other foods also eaten on this day such as stuffing, mash potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, sweet corn and various fall vegetables such as squash. Pumpkin pie is also associated with Thanksgiving Day.

Christmas Day
December 25 (Campus Holiday)

Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a widely celebrated cultural holiday that is celebrated on December 25 by millions of people around the world. Christmas is a civil holiday in many nations of the world, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians and it is an integral part of the Christmas holiday season. Popular modern customs of the holiday include gift giving, Christmas music and caroling, exchange of Christmas cards, church celebrations, a special meal and the display of various Christmas decorations, including Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scenes, garlands, wreaths, mistletoe, and holly. Santa Claus bringing gifts to children is also associated with Christmas.

Interesting Fact:

There is a special traditional in some regions of Sicily where 12 types of fish are served on Christmas Eve.