The International Student’s Guide To American Holidays (Fall Edition)


This fall, Americans will celebrate three major holidays: Columbus Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Here’s an overview of each.

Holiday #1: Columbus Day (Monday, October 12)

Columbus Day commemorates the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in the Americas on October 12, 1492. Columbus is credited with having discovered the Americas, also known as the New World. For many Americans, the holiday is a way to honor Columbus’ achievements. The holiday is also celebrated in Spain, Italy and Latin America.

How do American students celebrate?

Columbus Day is a federal holiday in the U.S. The federal government and most educational institutions are closed for the day. Since the holiday always falls on a Monday, students get to enjoy a three-day weekend. Some students use the three days to head home to visit family. Others use the time to visit friends in other cities or, in places like the northeast, head up north to see the fall foliage.

Holiday #2: Halloween (Saturday, October 31)

Halloween, also known as All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated on October 31st. These days, Halloween is famous for parties, merriment and parades. Historically, the day was known as a time to remember and celebrate the dead. The holiday is observed in many countries around the world, occurring the night before the Christian holy day of All Hallow’s Day or All Saints Day.

How do American students celebrate?

On the U.S. college scene, students dress in costumes and attend elaborate Halloween parties. The evening can be filled with ghosts, goblins, cartoon characters, super heroes, movie stars, and historical figures. In the days leading up to Halloween, Americans typically carve pumpkins into “jack-o’-lanterns.” Decorating dorms, taking hayrides, and visiting haunted houses are all popular pastimes. But be forewarned, Halloween can be a bit crazy. In fact, it can get downright spooky!

Holiday #3: Thanksgiving  (Thursday, November 26)

Thanksgiving is a day for Americans to give thanks for everything they have. The Thanksgiving tradition began in the 1600’s, when the early settlers of America, the Pilgrims, gathered and gave thanks for their harvest crops. The holiday falls on the fourth Thursday in November each year.

How do American students celebrate?

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday in the U.S. The federal government and all educational institutions are closed. Almost all colleges and universities recognize the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday as well, giving students four days (or more) for what is typically known as Thanksgiving Break. Most American students head home to spend the break with their families. On Thanksgiving Day, families gather for a large feast featuring traditional American standbys such as turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. International students may get invited to spend Thanksgiving Break with a close American friend and his or her family, or they can head to a Thanksgiving celebration on or off-campus that exists specifically for students who are in-town.

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