EXPAT LIFE IN AMERICA: Right now, it is summer, and one of the busiest times of the year for town celebrations and events in New Jersey, and elsewhere in the US. As this is being written, it is just one week after the American monster party of the year for the July 4th holiday (Independence Day). Although it’s arguably the biggest bash, it is not the only party that happens during summer, or even during the rest of the year. As it turns out, Americans really know how to celebrate bigtime.
Traditionally, American municipal towns and cities, organize a range of entertainment and social activities for residents throughout the year. For many US towns, municipalities provide a myriad of free family and community-style functions every year, year-on-year.
Summer Celebrations and Events
Independence Day-July 4th: Since July 4th celebrations are so important, there will nearly always be some type of celebration scheduled almost everywhere. Fireworks, parades, after-parties or picnics are all enjoyed around the nation. For many, this is the year’s highlight, as a fun holiday that positively represents the USA’s values and attributes.
Summer Festivals, Concerts and Movies: Other summer parties include outdoor music concerts, a seasonal festival or outdoor movies, held in one of the local community parks. Many residents bring along their own camp chairs or a blanket to enjoy the fun.
Farmers Markets: Available in most medium-large sized towns, where farmers, and other food producers, sell their ranges of fresh goods direct to customers. These may include fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood, fresh eggs, baked goods, olives, cheeses, nuts, relishes, and more. The produce is often below retail prices. These markets start in May or June, and run mostly until September, or sometimes until late fall.
Labor Day celebrations: Labor Day, occurs on the first weekend of September and is a public holiday like Memorial Day. It marks the end of summer culturally. Celebrations are less frequent but may include a Labor Day parade or a classic car show, etc.
Fall Celebrations and Events
The Fall season is considered to have started after Labor Day weekend, and the return of the school year in September.
Fall and Harvest Festivals: Celebrations often include foods and decorations focused around the traditional harvest produce of corn, pumpkins, and apples, as well as changing autumnal hues. Festival entertainments may include carnival rides, music, and arts & crafts. American fair-style foods are often available with food trucks. Festivals may offer hayrides, a corn maze or bumper cars to enjoy.
Halloween Trunk or Treat, and Parades: “Trunk or Treat” has become a popular alternative to trick or treating for younger children that towns now often coordinate, held at a local car park or empty lot. Some towns run a local Halloween parade for resident children and pets, with an associated trick and treat program that follows.
Thanksgiving-Turkey Trots: ‘Turkey trots’, a popular charity running race of ~5km, are held early on Thanksgiving Day to raise money and get residents doing a healthy activity before their big turkey dinner.
Winter Celebrations and Events
Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting: Where towns have a suitable fir tree, an official Christmas tree lighting is undertaken accompanied with refreshments, town officials’ speeches, music and/or carol-singing. A separate ceremony is frequently held during Hanukkah for the seven-candle menorah lighting.
Santa and Christmas Presents: Many towns have an organized Santa visit where resident children receive a present at a central spot in town, or there may be sleigh rides, a Santa headquarters to visit or the opportunity for Santa photos.
Snowflake Parade: A similar parade to the July 4th parade that is not very common due to the cold weather, but still appreciated by the local townsfolk where it is held.
Spring Celebrations and Events
By March, as the weather improves, there are increasing numbers of outdoor activities, as people enthusiastically look for excuses to get outside, away from indoor life.
St Patrick’s Day Parades: There are quite a few large parades in New Jersey which are very colourful and noisy, with marching bands being a big part. NYC has one of the most famous annual parades.
Easter Egg Hunt: This is a common town-run celebration run one-three weeks out from Easter in many places.
Fishing competitions: A popular family event held in late spring or early summer after the weather warms up properly. They are usually held at a local pond or lake, where trout or other fish are specially stocked for the day. Prizes are awarded for best catch.
Memorial Day Celebrations: One the key public holidays of the year, Memorial Day, commemorates the sacrifice of American armed forces in previous wars and engagements. Usually there is a ceremony held near the local war memorial, followed by a parade or town picnic or other celebration. Held on the last weekend of May, this weekend is widely considered the unofficial start of summer. It is the commonly used date for the start of swim season at community pools and private swim clubs.
Other Common Town Celebrations and Events in New Jersey
Other types of specific events that are held in some towns vary quite a bit but may include:
- a local bike race e.g. Tour de Montclair and Tour of Somerville bicycle races,
- a restaurant week or local food and wine festival,
- a Founder’s Day or historic event celebration,
- a set of running races where locals and outsiders can join (between 5-10k distances),
- sidewalk sales- these are special sales held on street pavements with select discounted stock,
- arts and craft festivals, or
- street fairs.
Non-Town Managed Events
There are also many events run on a regular basis organized by non-municipal organizations but these may not always be free to participate. Some examples include film festivals and commemorative saints’ feasts. There are just so many town celebrations and events in New Jersey, that you literally never run out of things to do.
This definitely makes another great reason why expats can enjoy life in New Jersey.