You already know about the major holidays we celebrate here in The United States, like Halloween, Christmas and Thanksgiving. But did you know there are literally dozens of other major holidays that are celebrated in different countries all over the world?
Just like in America, some are national and some are religious. Some gives thanks to special people, and some are a day for remembering a certain event in history. Some are even celebrated by everyone all over the world!
Keep reading to find out more about these special holidays and celebrations!
- New Year’s Eve/Day: These holidays began in Roman times to honor the god Janus, which is where we get the word January. Now, it is a special celebration of new beginnings.
- Burn’s Night: This is Scotland’s most famous holiday. January 25th honors the poet Robert Burn’s, and is traditionally celebrated by eating haggis, a Scottish delicacy, and reciting the poems of Burns.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day: January 20th honors the life and work of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
- Chinese New Year: Beginning after the winter solstice on the day of the second new moon, the Chinese celebrate both the New Year and the birthday of every person, according to tradition.
- Australia Day: On January 26th, this holiday celebrates the First Fleet’s arrival and settlement in Australia, founded in 1788.
- Valentine’s Day: In ancient Roman times, February 14th honors the deaths of two Christian saints. Today, it is a day to celebrate love and affection.
- Groundhog Day: On February 2nd, it is said that if a groundhog sees his shadow after hibernating, there will be six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney, PA is the little town known all over the world for carrying on this tradition.
- Mardi Gras: This joyous holiday is held the week before lent, a time when Christian people are often required to give up things to show humbleness before God. Fat Tuesday, the day before the start of lent, is a day of great feasting and celebration. Although the biggest celebration is held in New Orleans, LA, countries all over the world have their own versions of Mardi Gras.
- Lent: Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter, and is traditionally a time of sacrifice for devout Christians.
- St. Patrick’s Day: On March 17th, this Irish holiday celebrates the work of St. Patrick, who spread Catholicism throughout Ireland. The shamrock is the symbol of this holiday because of its three leaves; they are thought to symbolize The Holy Trinity of the Christian church.
- Greek Independence Day: March 25th is known to all Greeks as the day they took their independence from the Turkish, who held control of Greece until 1821.
- April Fool’s Day: Historically, April 1st was a day when people traded roles called Feast of Fools. Today it is celebrated with fun pranks on friends and family.
- Easter: Perhaps the most sacred religious holiday, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ coming back from the dead after being crucified, commonly called his resurrection. It is celebrated all over the world by Christians.
- Arbor Day: A man named Stanley Morgan came up with an idea to plant trees to honor spring, and Arbor Day was made a national holiday on April 22nd, his birthday. Planting trees is legal and encouraged on this day.
- Passover: This Jewish holiday celebrates the liberation and exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. It occurs every spring on a different day according to the Hebrew calendar.
- Mother’s Day: This is a special day to honor all mothers, and it was started in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe.
- Cinco de Mayo: This important Mexican celebration means Fifth of May, and it commemorates the victory of the Mexicans over the French army in 1862. Today it is a colorful, fun-filled day full of parties, food, and music.
- Memorial Day: May 30th marks the day to honor all soldiers who have died in America’s wars. Flowers, candles and flags are often put on the graves of the fallen to honor them.
- Victoria Day: Canadians celebrate Victoria Day on the Monday before May 24th to honor Queen Victoria and her birthday.
- Father’s Day: In the United States the third Sunday in June is set aside to celebrate fathers everywhere.
- Chinese Dragon Boat Festival: After planting crops in the spring, the Chinese would hold a day to race dragon-shaped boats that were thought to bring rain to help the harvest.
- Flag Day: June 14th is set aside to honor the American flag. The current and official version of the flag was adopted in 1977.
- Fourth of July: On this day in 1776, the American colonists won their freedom from the British Monarchy. This happy occasion is still celebrated with fireworks, picnics and parades that give thanks for the beginning of Democracy.
- Canada Day: On July 1st, people all over Canada celebrate the creation of the Canadian Federal Government, founded in 1867. It was originally called Dominion Day.
- Obon: This is the most important religious festival in Japan for people of the Buddhist faith. From the 13th to the 16th they honor and remember their departed loved ones, and it is believed their ancestors come back into their homes to visit.
- Hiroshima Day: On August 6th, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a city in Japan. This solemn day remembers the tragedy with peace marches and candlelight vigils.
- Janmashtami: This Hindu holiday celebrates the god Krishna, and occurs on the eighth day of the waning moon to give thanks for his birth and rescue from death.
- Raksha Bandhan: This is a summer festival celebrated by the Hindu people. It was created to show love to your brothers and sisters, and also typically involves ceremonial washings and coconut offerings near the water for Varuna, an ancient sea-god.
- National Grandparent’s Day: Grandparent’s Day was started in 1978 and occurs the first Sunday after Labor Day. It is a time to honor all grandparents and the elderly, and to take time to recognize the valuable lessons that can be learned from them.
- Labor Day: The first Monday in September honors The Labor Movement, and celebrates all the achievements that workers have made in The United States. Ceremonies, parades, fireworks and cookouts honor the history of the American worker on this day.
- International Day of Peace: On September 16th, people worldwide celebrate the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly, which has been declared an International Day of Peace.
- Onam: In Southern India, this is a rice harvest festival held sometime during September. It is celebrated by people of all different religions there, and it typically consists of threshing contests. Threshing is a method used to separate the seeds (or rice) from the plant.
- Halloween: October 31st dates back to the Celtic people and their celebration of Samhain. On this day people disguised themselves because it was believed that spirits had free reign on earth. Because of this belief, people still dress in costume today for fun, and children can go from house to house receiving treats as long as they are disguised in costume!
- Columbus Day: October 12th celebrates Christopher Columbus’s finding the New World. It is a very important holiday to Latin Americans because the day is also used to remember all of their contributions to society.
- Yom Kippur: This Jewish holiday is also called “The Day of Atonement”. The Jewish people spend the tenth day after Rosh Hashanah making up for any sins or misdeeds by fasting during the day and spending time in prayer.
- Ramadan: This Muslim holiday lasts a month, during which time all Muslim people refrain from food or water during the day to practice patience and humbleness before God.
- Oktoberfest: First celebrated in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival featuring parties, locally brewed beer, and traditional Bavarian foods.
- Canadian Thanksgiving: On the second Monday of October, Canadians celebrate their own Thanksgiving to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, and to honor Martin Frobisher, an explorer who founded a settlement in Newfoundland in 1578.
- Guy Fawkes Day: On November 5th throughout Great Britain, people gather together in the night to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes, who planned treason against the king. Bonfires are burned in the streets, and fireworks are held.
- American Thanksgiving: All over the United States, family and friends spend the fourth Thursday of November giving thanks for their blessings and celebrate the legendary first feast between the early American settlers and The Native Americans by sharing a special meal together.
- Veteran’s Day: This holiday is held on November 11th, and was created to remember and give thanks to all armed service veterans in the United States.
- All Saint’s Day: On November 1st, Christians all over the world use this day to pay respect to all the Christian saints. Deceased loved ones and family members are also honored with candles and flowers at their grave sites.
- Diwali: This Hindu festival is celebrated for four days, and is similar to Christmas, with lighted festivals and many joyous activities. This holiday honors goodness and life, and is considered the start of winter.
- Christmas: Christmas honors the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th every year. It is a joyous time of songs called carols, the trimming of Christmas trees in the home and the community, and gift-giving between loved ones to give thanks. Santa Claus also appears on this day, leaving gifts beneath the tree for all children who have been good throughout the year!
- Chanukah: Also known as The Festival of Lights, Chanukah is celebrated for eight days, each marked by the burning of a candle in a special holder called a menorah, to give thanks for The Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Lots of food and gifts are included in the celebrations!
- Kwanzaa: Started in 1966, Kwanzaa is a holiday that seeks to honor the traditions of different African nations. Feasts are held that feature foods native to Africa, such as sweet potatoes and collard greens.
- Boxing Day: An English holiday held the day after Christmas, Boxing Day is a special occasion when gifts and money are taken from charity boxes and are given to the poor. Workers such as paper boys and milk men are also traditionally given small gifts or money.
- Las Posadas: This holiday starts the Christmas season for people in Mexico, and many other Spanish-speaking countries. It is celebrated for nine days during which reenactments of Mary and Joseph’s trip into Bethlehem take place. Costumes, food and treats, and star-shaped pinatas are part of the celebration.