Public holidays and observances in New Jersey


Celebrating Columbus Day in style in San Francisco, USA

LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: As an expat landing in New Jersey, getting a grip on what holidays are observed here was not as straight forward as I’d imagined. Part of the reason for this is because public holidays are done a bit differently here than in Australia.

The USA does not follow the same idea of a ‘national holiday’ mandated by law where you get a day off work and still get paid. Apparently, it is up to each state to mandate what will be observed as a public holiday. There is a such list of these holidays on the New Jersey State government website.

However, like many things in the US, working out what public holidays your children’s school calendar entails, or what your husband’s public holiday schedule will be like, is not that simple…

How to break it down into something you can grasp

Here’s the gist. There are a variety of holidays:

  • National holidays (observed by pretty much everyone);
  • Holidays only observed by groups such as schools, some employers and federal and state government organizations; and
  • Religious observances that are sometimes holidays (but not always)

There are also lots of popular observances that do not qualify for a public holiday but still get a lot of celebrations around them anyway. One thing the USA knows how to do is to celebrate their important days! 

 1. National holidays (for 2013)

Let’s start with the public holidays that you can just about count on everyone having off. These include:

Tuesday, January 1 – New Year’s Day

Monday, May 27 – Memorial Day (commemorates the USA’s veterans who died while serving their country)

Thursday, July 4 – Independence Day (commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July, 1776)

Monday, September 2 – Labor Day (celebrates the economic and social contributions of US workers)

Thursday, November 28 -Thanksgiving Day (commemorates the feast shared by the Pilgrims with plains Indians after their first harvest in the New World in 1621)

Wednesday, December 25 – Christmas Day

Major retailers are closed on these days but a minor number of service providers such as QuickCheck, a 24 hour convenience store chain, do remain open.

2. Other 2013 Holidays Dates

There are a number of other holiday dates that are observed by federal organizations and schools but not all employers. These are:

Monday, January 21 – Martin Luthor King Jr. Day (commemorates Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Monday, February 18 – Presidents Day (commemorates George Washington’s Birthday)

Friday, March 29 – Good Friday

Monday, October 14 – Columbus Day (commemorates Christopher Columbus’ arrival in America in 1492)

Friday, November 29 –Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving: this is a major shopping day similar to Boxing Day in Australia)

You can generally assume all the dates in both list 1 and 2, are days when school will not be held.

Employers though, vary on their recognition of these dates. Many companies including K’s, do not recognize MLK Day or Columbus Day as holidays their employees are entitled to, while some other companies do.

3. Other Popular Observances with holidays (2013 dates)

Thursday, September 5 – Rosh Hashanah (Jewish holiday commemorating the beginning of the Hebrew New Year): usually observed by schools/colleges in areas where there is a significant Jewish population, if on a weekday.

Saturday, September 14 – Yom Kippur (Jewish holiday commemorating the end of the Ten Days of Penitence): usually observed by schools/colleges in areas where there is a significant Jewish population, if on a weekday.

These dates may or may not be observed as school holidays. In my local school district, both Jewish holidays are school holidays, when they fall on a weekday.

4. More Dates to Remember

Just as important for you to know as a new expat, will be those other ‘talked about’ observances. These are important dates, often celebrated, but not usually observed with a specific public holiday:

2nd February – Groundhog Day (beginning of Spring)

14th February – Valentines Day (hardly a surprise that it is heavily commercialised here)

17th March – St. Patricks Day (a big Irish contingent in the USA ensures this is a big celebration)

March/April (varies) – Passover (Jewish festival celebrating the Exodus of Jews from Egypt)

5th May – Cinco de Mayo (Hispanic/Mexican celebration)

31st October: Halloween – celebrated with trick and treating but not a public holiday

November/December (varies) – Hanukkah (Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem)

Monday, November 11 – Veterans Day (commemorates all veterans who served in the armed forces and coincides with Remembrance and Armistice Day)

26th December – 1st January – Kwanzaa (African-American holiday celebration) 

Oh, and the kids get a day off school on Election Day and the President’s Inauguration Day as well, whenever these occur (once every four years).

Phew.. I’m exhausted after writing all these dates down!

Check Your Public Holiday Schedule with your school or employer

Each school district sets its own calendar, so it is best to follow this as the ultimate guide for school schedules. Employees should verify what days are observed by the individual organizations that they work for.

Remember too, that some holidays we have in Australia are not practiced in the USA such as Easter Monday and Boxing Day. And no Australia Day holiday… what?  Unbelievable, isn’t it? (joking , of course..)

This list may not be easy to follow if you are used to a holiday regime that is very different in your home country but at least it’s a start.

To all you ‘just landed’ New Jersey expats, Happy holiday planning!

Are there any dates I should add to my list? 

2 thoughts on “Public holidays and observances in New Jersey

  1. As a potential relocator to NJ your blog has provided much needed information. Irish quite similar to aussie way of life so it pretty much all applies. Have lived in Aus and enjoyed it immensely and just trying to make a decision now as to whether I will like NJ. The specifics of life in NJ, holidays, weather, towns, renting, etc from an outsiders perspective is exactly what is needed.

    • Thanks for your comment Denise! I am glad the information I’m providing is useful, as that has always been my intent. While NJ is definitely different to Australia in a huge number of ways, I am not exaggerating when I say there is a lot to offer here. No matter how pretty Sydney is, I can’t say that I am less than an hour away from ski fields in the winter, while still being just an hour away from the beach back home there. Australia for all its beauty, also can’t offer the NJ extremes in seasons which provide gorgeous vistas year around. There are always lots of things to do here as well: lots of festivals, food celebrations and NY is just down the road. Let me know if there is any information I can help you with in deciding to relocate or not. Good luck with the decision. It’s certainly a big one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.