Archive for the "National Holidays" Category

Civil Rights Day

When is Civil Rights Day?

Civil Rights Day is an alternative name for the national holiday named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Certain states have chosen to celebrate the same holiday under both names in order to celebrate civil rights as a whole, including all of the contributions made by activists during the 1960s and beyond. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Civil Rights Day occurs every third Monday in January.

A Day Dedicated to Human Rights

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most notable figures in the history of human rights. He is recognized as the leading activist during the Civil Rights Movement, which hit its peak during the 1960s. King is credited with forming the largest campaigns to promote racial equality and desegregation. He was also the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated in 1968, but his work hasn’t been forgotten.

Activists continued with King’s work after his death, but they also wanted him to be remembered on a much larger scale. An idea soon circled about creating a holiday to coincide with his birthday, which was January 15th. It took many years for the idea to come together to create a national holiday. In 1983, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day officially became a federal holiday after President Ronal Reagan signed it into law.

The holiday has since been observed every third Monday in January to create an extended weekend so people can celebrate. King’s birthday is still recognized every year. Sometimes the holiday falls on his birthday. The last time this happened was on January 15, 2007. It will occur again on January 15, 2018.

Individual State Involvement

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday, which means that all government offices and public schools are closed in observance. However, states still have the option of celebrating the holiday in ways they see fit. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that all states recognized the holiday – nearly two decades after it was signed into law.

Other states have taken a step further by combining national celebrations with a state-endorsed holiday. This is how Civil Rights Day came to fruition. It was first created by New Hampshire in 1991, where the state looked to replace Fast Day. Arizona tried to create Civil Rights Day in the late 1980s, but not everyone in the state government was on board. In fact, Arizona didn’t officially create the state holiday until 1992.

Utah and Idaho have also taken steps to create a state-wide holiday to coincide with the federal day to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is most commonly referred to as Human Rights Day. Some southern states have chosen to celebrate a day of Civil Rights in conjunction with Robert E. Lee’s birthday. While celebrating the activist alongside a Confederate general seems like an oxymoron, this is a sign of changing social and cultural views.

How to Celebrate Civil Rights Day

The extent of official Civil Rights Day celebrations vary depending on where you live. While all states now recognize MLK Day, the celebrations may be bigger in states that also celebrate Civil Rights Day. Washington, D.C. is also a hot-spot on the holiday because of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Visitors may also stop by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the National Mall, which opened in 2011.

There are numerous other types of celebrations for Civil Rights Day. The public may hold peaceful rallies to bring up human rights issues, while others hold small memorials and presentations to celebrate King. Children often learn about the civil rights movement in school during the weeks leading up to Civil Rights Day.

Native Americans’ Day

When is Native Americans’ Day?

Native Americans’ Day is an alternative holiday celebrated in opposition to Columbus Day. It is held every second Monday in October—the same day as Columbus Day. While not recognized as a government holiday, Native Americans’ Day is considered a city and state public holiday in many regions in the United States. As the controversies of Columbus Day grow, celebrations of Native Americans’ Day has increased in prominence.


South Dakota is the birthplace of Native Americans’ Day. It officially started in 1989 when the state legislature took steps to replace Columbus Day. The new law effectively replaced Columbus Day in South Dakota with Native Americans’ Day starting on October 8, 1990. It was a unanimous decision, and a significant change that the people of South Dakota welcomed wholeheartedly. On top of the change in holiday, South Dakota declared the same year as a “Year of Reconciliation for Native Americans.”

Where It’s Celebrated

Native Americans’ Day got its start in South Dakota, but the idea has since spread to other parts of the United States. The city of Berkeley, California has celebrated the holiday since 1992. In fact, Columbus Day is no longer observed by Berkeley. While many people have praised the city’s decision, others feel it would be fair to celebrate both holidays. However, the consensus in Berkeley is that Native Americans’ Day is the more appropriate holiday to observe.

Since its founding in 1989, Native Americans’ Day has grown in popularity. Some groups of people choose to celebrate this holiday over Columbus Day, even if the latter is declared a public holiday in a particular region. Native Americans’ Day is also called Indigenous People’s Day in some locations.

Types of Celebrations

There’s no question that the “discovery” of the Americas turned into tragedy for Native Americans. Still, most people who celebrate Native Americans’ Day wish to commemorate the holiday as a positive one based on heritage. Native customs, songs and dances are highlighted in ceremonies, and educational events highlight cultural traditions. By bringing such celebrations to light, traditions can carry on and won’t be forgotten.

While Columbus Day is celebrated on a national level, many states choose not to observe the holiday as a public one. The situation is similar with Native Americans’ Day. The extent of business and government closures depend on local and state laws. In South Dakota and Berkeley, California, schools and public offices are closed, as well as many businesses. Families that celebrate Native Americans’ Day may also choose to take the day off from work or school.

American Indian Heritage Day

When is American Indian Heritage Day?

American Indian Heritage Day is recognized on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. Also called Native American Heritage Day, this is a relatively new holiday that has gained popularity in many communities and institutions across the country. The purpose is to recognize all of the important contributions Native Americans have made to culture and society.

History and Founding

The idea for American Indian Heritage Day was started by former California Congressman Joe Baca through the introduction of the Native American Heritage Day Bill in 2007. It called for the national designation of the day after Thanksgiving as a day to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans. The bill went on to pass unanimously through both the Senate and the House, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in October 2008. The National Indian Gaming Association also supported the passage of this bill. The first Native American Heritage Day was observed on November 28, 2008.

Native American Heritage Day is a designated holiday in the United States, but it isn’t a public one. This means that businesses and government agencies aren’t required to close. However, given the close proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday in November, many institutions are closed on the date anyway. American Indian Heritage Day coincides with the American shopping day of “Black Friday.”

Types of Celebrations

Native American heritage as at the heart of this holiday. Not only have Native Americans made significant contributions to the arts, but their traditions have widely been utilized in the sciences as well as medicine. Sadly, many cultural traditions were lost after Europeans inhabited the Americas. It’s important to Americans to recognize that the contributions and heritage of indigenous cultures are not forgotten, and to carry out the traditions in the future. American Indian Heritage Day provides the opportunity to do so for at least one day out of the year.

American Indian Heritage Day is primarily celebrated through ceremonies and festivals that recreate the customs of Native Americans. Cultural dances and songs may be presented, as well as reenactments of significant events in Native American history. Public schools celebrate this holiday through special educational seminars that showcase the significance of Native American customs. Some teachers choose to highlight the subject throughout the whole month of November.

Expansion of the Holiday

While American Indian Heritage Day is celebrated on a national level, some communities have taken it up as well. For example, Maryland considers it a state holiday. This means that all statewide institutions, such as schools, libraries and government agencies are all closed to recognize the holiday. Maryland has celebrated the day as American Indian Heritage Day since 2008, while the holiday is better known as Native American Heritage Day on the national level.

The idea of a holiday to celebrate Native American heritage has also extended to even smaller institutions. For example, the University of Montana holds a campus-wide celebration of American Indian Heritage Day. This holiday, however, is on a different date in September, unlike the national holiday of Native American Heritage Day in November.

Columbus Day

When is Columbus Day?

Columbus Day, held every second Monday in October, commemorates the discovering of the American continents by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Columbus first arrived to the region on October 12, 1492. The world changed forever upon his discovery. While created out of good spirit, Columbus Day is one of the most controversial modern-day holidays.

Sailing the Ocean Blue

In 1492, Christopher Columbus became known as the first European to find the American continents. While later historical accounts have proven this claim to be false in many aspects, Columbus has long carried this credit throughout the centuries. Before his discoveries, Europeans didn’t know there were large land masses outside of Europe, Asia and Africa. Despite later controversies, this discovery was significant at this time in European history. It would later lead the way to the colonializing of what would eventually become the United States of America.

Evolution of Celebrations

Columbus Day has evolved over the decades from other types of celebrations. Christopher Columbus himself was of Italian ethnicity, which is why he is praised by many Italian-Americans residing in North and South America. People affiliated with this group in New York City celebrated Christopher Columbus in 1866. In 1869, Italian-Americans residing in the San Francisco area also first observed the early makings of what would later be called Columbus Day.

In the late 19th century, discoveries were continuing to be made in the western portion of the country. It’s no surprise that the original discoveries of Christopher Columbus were often thought of. The 400th anniversary of the original discovery date was observed in 1892. Just over a decade later, the state of Colorado started celebrating Columbus Day every October 12th. In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded legislation to make it a national holiday. To make celebrations easier, Columbus Day was officially moved to the second Monday in October beginning in 1970.

Traditionally, Columbus Day is a federal holiday. This means that the government is not in session during this time. Most public schools and banks used to be closed on this holiday as well; however, as of recent years, many businesses and local governments don’t consider Columbus Day a public holiday.

The most common form of celebrations are that of discovery. Many historians argue that we live in a global community today thanks in part to the efforts of explorers of the past. While there aren’t any major land masses to discover today, the spirit of exploration rings true to many people – even more so on Columbus Day.


While exploration is certainly an integral part of our history, there are many arguments against celebrating Christopher Columbus. There’s no denying the fact that when early Europeans discovered the Americas that native peoples were displaced. As a result, communities were often destroyed, and many other cultures wiped out, leaving no traces for history books to capture. This sad fact is the dark side of the discoveries made by Columbus. Others argue that too much credit is given to Columbus, as he didn’t make it around the entire perimeter of the Americas.

Due to such controversies, many local and state governments have modified Columbus Day. For example, the state of Hawaii observes the holiday as “Discoverer’s Day.” Alaska does not recognize the holiday at all. Other states have transformed the holiday to remember the indigenous people who Columbus came across when he first came to the Americas. For example, South Dakota recognizes “Native American Day,” and Wisconsin knows Columbus Day as “Indigenous People’s Day.”