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Give reasons for celebrating the events or people commemorated in national and Massachusetts holidays. On a calendar for the current year, identify the months for Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Patriots' Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day.

Labor Day

Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882
Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882

Labor Day is celebrated on the First Monday in September. This holiday celebrates the strength of the people who have been working tirelessly to create the country we live in today. Below are excerpts from an article focusing on this history of Labor Day.

How it Came About; What it Means
"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country"

The First Labor Day
"The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country."

Link here to read more.

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Columbus Day

(Indigenous People's Day/Native American Day/Discoverers Day/Leif Erikson Day)

Columbus Day is a celebration that recognizes when Christopher Columbus first landed here in the new world.

Here are some facts about this day.
  • Columbus landed on October 12, 1492.
  • Columbus Day not become a federal holiday until 1937.
    • Colorado was the first state to celebrate Columbus Day in 1906
      • Wisconsin first celebrated Leif Erikson Day in 1930
  • Caused controversy and some people have alternate celebrations.
  • Many native American's protest the holiday because they do not want to celebrate the colonization of the Americas and the resulting death of millions.
  • Three states, South Dakota, Hawaii and Alaska do not celebrate Columbus Day

How Columbus Sailed into U.S. History, Thanks to Italians, NPR Code Switch (October 14, 2013)

Phoenix Recognizes Indigenous People's Day
Phoenix Recognizes Indigenous People's Day

Multimedia.pngReconsider Columbus Day, PSA from Nu Heights Cinema

primary_sources.PNGProclamation 335: 400th Anniversary of the Discovery of America by Columbus, President Benjamin Harrison, July 21, 1892. First time a President called for a national observance.

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Quest to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day Sails Ahead, CNN (October 10, 2016)

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Presidential Proclamation: Leif Erikson Day, 2013 by President Barark Obama

Why Do We Celebrate Columbus Day and Not Leif Erikson Day? National Geographic (October 11, 2015)

rotating gif.gifLink to Grade 5.1 for Viking exploration of North America

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Veteran's Day was not always observed as being called Veteran's Day. In 1918 in the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month, Allied forces and Germany stopped their fighting. This day would be commemorated the following year as Armistice Day. It was not until after WWII and the Korean wars, was the day dedicated to honoring those who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedom. Today we are still honoring those we have lost and those that are still fighting.

Fast facts about Veteran's day
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation on June 1, 1954.
  • Congress wanted to make sure that federal employees would get to observe this Holiday so they signed into Law the Uniform Holidays Bill marking the observation to be on a Monday.
  • First Veteran's Day under the new Bill was October 25 1971
  • People were confused and wanted to celebrate on the original date
  • Gerald Ford signed a law returning Veteran's Day to November 11th beginning in 1978.

Click here to read more.

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When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of getting together with your family to have this great meal and spend some quality time with them.
  • What many people seem to forget that Thanksgiving was based upon a truce between the native American's and the Pilgrim which was the foundation of our new colonies.
  • This was a major event in our country's history that helped create a better world. It all took place in a little town called Plymouth, Massachusetts.

"Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans. In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days. While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations."

See **Grade 3.3** for background in Thanksgiving as a Holiday

Other Fast facts about Thanksgiving:
  • At the first Thanksgiving, the people ate various fish and fowl, deer, corn, and possibly lobster and swan.
    • Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
  • Sarah Josepha Hale, who wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb, campaigned to create the holiday
  • Franklin Roosevelt changed the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the second to last Thursday in November to extend the Christmas shopping season.
    • Only about half the states followed this (Texas celebrated both days). Congress had to change the date to the 4th Thursday in November as a compromise.

Multimedia.pngClick here to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special

Click here to read more.

game_icon.svg.pngClick here to play a game from the Plimoth Plantation, where you play an investigator who learns about the First Thanksgiving.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated in January. This day is to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and all of his accomplishments. He was a key member of the social activist scene in the 1950's until his untimely death in 1968. His famous speech "I have a dream" is still made every year on this date to commemorate his life. He thought that all people should have equal rights just as it was stated in the Declaration of Independence. It did not matter to him what race you were, he wanted equal rights.

Fast facts about Martin Luther King Day:
  • It is celebrated on the 3rd Monday in January
  • It was first celebrated in 1986
  • Many celebrate Martin Luther King Day of Service on this date, when people volunteer to make a difference

primary_sources.PNGClick here for the "I Have a Dream Speech"

Biography icon for wiki.pngClick here to read more about Martin Luther King Jr.

rotating gif.gifGo to United States History II.25 and II.26 for more on the Civil Rights Movement in American History.

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President's Day

Presidents' Day is celebrated every year on the third Monday in February. It is a day when Americans pay homage to the lives of past U.S. presidents. The holiday was established in 1800, when Congress declared February 22, or George Washington's birthday,a federal holiday. Still legally known as Washington's Birthday, Presidents' Day has become a day to honor not only Washington, but Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. president who was born on February 12.

Fast facts on President's Day
  • It was the first American holiday to recognize a single individual
  • The date was moved from February 22 to the 3rd Monday in February in 1971

Click here to read more.
The Minuteman statue at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The Minuteman statue at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Patriot's Day

Celebrated as the third Monday in April, thousands of people flock to historic Lexington and Concord and Minute Man National Historical Park to celebrate Patriot's Day. Patriot's Day is a special Massachusetts State holiday commemorating the opening battle of the American Revolutionary War, April 19, 1775. There are many activities, including reenactments and parades planned to celebrate Patriot's Day.

Patriot's Day is commonly referred to as "Marathon Monday" in Massachusetts because the Boston Marathon.

Click here to read more.

Memorial Day Monument, Concord, Massachusetts
Memorial Day Monument, Concord, Massachusetts

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. This day is to honor all the men and women who died serving the United States military. It was originally known as Decoration Day and celebrated on May 30th. Although it has been unofficially celebrated since the Civil War, it finally became a federal holiday in 1971. Many Memorial Day traditions include visiting cemeteries and memorials, holding parades, and even having parties.

Click here to read more
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A solider placing flags on graves of military members

Independence Day

This holiday is also known as "The Fourth" or "The Fourth of July". It celebrates America's independence from Great Britain. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress decided to declare their independence. Two days later, July 4, they decided to use the Declaration of Independence. During the Revolutionary War, people would celebrate with mock funerals for King George III, public readings of the Declaration of Independence, speeches, cannon and musket blasts, and bonfires. It officially became a holiday in 1870. Today, it is common to celebrate with parties, fireworks, parades, and concerts.

Click here to read more.

Independence Day fireworks at UMass Amherst