New Year’s Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar used in ancient Rome. With most countries using the Gregorian calendar as their main calendar, New Year’s Day is the closest thing to being the world’s only truly global public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts. January 1 on the Julian calendar currently corresponds to January 14 on the Gregorian calendar, and it is on that date that followers of some of the Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate the New Year
Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, literally “Christ‘s mass“) is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated generally on December 25 as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. A feast central to the Christian liturgical year, it closes the Advent season and initiates the twelve days of Christmastide. Christmas is a civil holiday in many of the world’s nations, is celebrated by an increasing number of non-Christians, and is an integral part of the Christmas and holiday season.
Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving in Canada falls on the same day as Columbus Day in the United States. Because of the longstanding traditions of the holiday, the celebration often extends to the weekend that falls closest to the day it is celebrated.
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-dayMassachusetts. There is also evidence for an earlier harvest celebration on the continent by Spanish explorers in Florida during 1565, as well as thanksgiving feasts in the Virginia Colony. The initial thanksgiving observance at Virginia in 1619 was prompted by the colonists’ leaders on the anniversary of the settlement.The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. In later years, the tradition was continued by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623.While initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed half of the 102 colonists, the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the Pilgrims by providing seeds and teaching them to fish. The practice of holding an annual harvest festival like this however, did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.
In Canada, the origins of the first Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. Frobisher’s Thanksgiving celebration was not for harvest, but for homecoming. He had safely returned from an unsuccessful search for the Northwest Passage, avoiding the later fate of Henry Hudson and Sir John Franklin. In the year 1578, Frobisher held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey. Years later, the tradition of a feast would continue as more settlers began to arrive to the Canadian colonies.
Shichi-Go-San is a Japanese festival held on 15 November to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. As it is not a national holiday, it is generally observed on the nearest weekend.
Shichi-Go-San is said to have originated in the Heian Period amongst court nobles who would celebrate the passage of their children into middle childhood. The ages 3, 5 and 7 are consistent with East Asian numerology, which claims that odd numbers are lucky. The practice was set to the fifteenth of the month during the Kamakura Period.
Over time, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of rituals. Children—who up until the age of three were required by custom to have shaven heads—were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. By the Meiji Period, the practice was adopted amongst commoners as well, and included the modern ritual of visiting a shrine to drive out evil spirits and wish for a long healthy life.
Culture Day (文化の日 Bunka no hi) is a national holiday held annually in Japan on November 3 for the purpose of promoting culture, the arts, and academic endeavor. Festivities typically include art exhibitions, parades, and award ceremonies for distinguished artists and scholars. It was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946.
Culture Day was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946.
November 3 was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1868, when it was called Tenchō-setsu (天長節), a holiday held in honor of the birthday of the reigning emperor—at that time, the Meiji Emperor. (See also The Emperor’s Birthday.) With the death of the Meiji Emperor in 1912, November 3 ceased to be a holiday until 1927, when his birthday was given its own specific holiday, known as Meiji-setsu (明治節). As Meiji-setsu was discontinued with the announcement of Culture Day in 1948, some see Culture Day as a continuation of this tradition as well—a mere renaming of Meiji-setsu—although they are ostensibly unrelated.
Halloween (or Hallowe’en) is an annual holiday observed on October 31, which commonly includes activities such as trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.
Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘s arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492, as an official holiday. The event is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza in many countries in Latin America, as Discovery Day in the Bahamas, as Día de la Hispanidad, Fiesta Nacional in Spain, Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) in Argentina and as Día de las Américas (Day of the Americas) in Uruguay. These holidays have been celebrated unofficially since the late 18th century, and officially in various areas since the early 20th century.
Celebrated the second Monday of October in the United States. Actual observance varies in different parts of the country, ranging from large-scale parades and events to complete non-observance. Most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, though many mark it as a “Day of Observance” or “Recognition” and three do not recognize it at all. Most states (including states where it’s not a legal holiday) close schools and other state services, while others operate as normal.
Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota are the three states that do not recognize Columbus Day at all, though Hawaii and South Dakota mark the day with an alternative holiday or observance. Hawaii celebrates Discoverers’ Day, which commemorates the Polynesian discoverers of Hawaii on the same date, the second Monday of October, though the name change has not ended protest related to the observance of Columbus’ discovery. The state government does not treat either Columbus Day or Discoverers’ Day as a legal holiday; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business. South Dakota celebrates the day as an official state holiday known as “Native American Day” rather than Columbus Day. Nevada does not celebrate Columbus Day as an official holiday; however, the governor is “authorized and requested” by statute to proclaim the day each year. This probably has less to do with any objection to the celebration of the day than the fact that it is relatively close to Nevada Day, and schools and banks can only be closed for so many days.
Health and Sports Day (体育の日 Taiiku no hi), also known as Health-Sports Day or Sports Day, is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle. Many schools and businesses choose this day to hold their annual Field Day (運動会 Undō-kai), or sports day. This typically consists of a range of physical events ranging from more traditional track-and-field events such as the 100 meters or 4 x 100 meters relay to more uncommon events such as the tug of war and the Mock Cavalry Battle (騎馬戦 Kiba-sen).
Autumnal Equinox Day (秋分の日 Shūbun no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan that usually occurs on September 22 or 23, the date of Southward equinox in Japan Standard Time (autumnal equinox can occur on different dates for different timezones). Due to the necessity of recent astronomical measurements, the date of the holiday is not officially declared until February of the previous year. Autumnal Equinox Day became a public holiday on 1948. In 1947 and before, it was the date of Shūki kōreisai ( 秋季皇霊祭), an event relating to Shintoism. Like other holidays, this holiday was repackaged as a non-religious holiday for the sake of separation of religion and state in Japan’s postwar constitution.
Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日 Keirō no Hi?) is a Japanese holiday celebrated annually to honor elderly citizens. It started in 1966 as a national holiday and was held on every September 15. After 2003, the Respect for the Aged Day is held on the 3rd Monday of September due to the Happy Monday System.
This national holiday traces its origins to 1947, when Nomadani-mura (later Yachiyo-cho, currently Taka-cho), Hyōgo Prefecture proclaimed September 15 Old Folks’ Day (Toshiyori no Hi). Its popularity spread nationwide, and in 1966 it took its present name and status. Annually, Japanese media take the opportunity to feature the elderly, reporting on the population and highlighting the oldest people in the country.