The calendar is filled with serious American holidays, when people spend time with their family and celebrate something of religious or historic significance. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Independence Day all fall into this category.
America has another tier of holidays, however. Holidays such as Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras and New Year’s Eve are more about whimsy than solemnity.
Many of these fun American holidays originally had a religious significance, like St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Nowadays these holidays and many more are an important part of American life and culture, regardless of your religion, location or age.
Groundhog Day may be among the silliest of all American holidays.
According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow on this day, winter will continue for six more weeks. If no shadow appears, spring will come soon.
This is the holiday to show your love for your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or even your parents, kids and friends.
Couples often exchange presents, and it is common for women to receive flowers or a box of chocolates. Many celebrate by eating at a special restaurant.
Literally “Fat Tuesday, ” Mardi Gras always takes place the day before Ash Wednesday (a Christian holiday). Celebrations are associated with certain American cities, particularly New Orleans. Many US cities don’t mark the occasion at all.
Throughout America, New Orleans is known for its large parade and the distribution of bead necklaces.
This holiday, in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, is particularly important to Americans of Irish descent. But you don’t have to be Irish to celebrate!
Many cities hold a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Bars dye their beer green and serve traditional Irish fare.
Children traditionally dress in costumes (princess, monster, ghost and superhero costumes are always popular) and collect candy by knocking on doors shouting, “Trick or treat!” Some communities choose another day at the end of October to trick-or-treat.
Parades mark the occasion in some cities, and even adults wear their own costumes!
Like in countries around the world, New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated in America. Whether they spend the night at a party, a bar or quietly at home, many Americans turn on the TV shortly before midnight Eastern Standard Time to watch a giant ball drop in Times Square in New York City.
Although these fun American holidays often are celebrated with parties, food or even parades, they do not have the weight or significance of many other nationally celebrated holidays. Stores and schools rarely close to observe these lighter American holidays.