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Introduction

A holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced. Generally, holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. Holidays may be designated by governments, religious institutions, or other groups or organizations. The degree to which normal activities are reduced by a holiday may depend on local laws, customs, the type of job held or personal choices.

The concept of holidays often originated in connection with religious observances or associated with traditions. The intention of a holiday was typically to allow individuals to tend to religious duties associated with important dates on the calendar. In most modern societies, however, holidays serve as much of a recreational functions as any other weekend days or activities. (Full article...)

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Saint Valentine's Day or Valentine's Day falls on February 14. It is the traditional day on which lovers express their love for each other; sending Valentine's cards and candy, often anonymously. The holiday is named after two men, both Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

The day was most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of "valentines". Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards. The Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines. In the United States, the marketing of Valentine's Day has tagged it as a "Hallmark holiday".

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Punxsutawney Phil is a groundhog and the most famous resident of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog's Day) of each year, the town of Punxsutawney celebrates the beloved groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles east of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, the United States will suffer six more weeks of winter. If Phil does not see his shadow, spring will arrive early.

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Credit: NOAA
Snow flakes by Wilson Bentley.

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Major topics

Holidays - Anniversaries - Civic holidays - Federal holidays - Hallmark holidays - Heroes' Day - National holidays - Observances - Holidays by Country - Victory Days

Lists: Christmas carols - Christmas dishes - Hindu festivals - Holidays by country - Objects dropped on New Year's Eve - Winter festivals

Religious festivals: Buddhist festivals - Christian festivals - Islamic festivals - Neopagan holidays - Hindu festivals - Jain festivals - Jewish holidays - Roman festivals

Secular holidays: April Fools' - Armed Forces Day - Boss's Day - Children's Day - Cinco de Mayo - Commonwealth Day - Earth Day - Father's Day - Grandparents' Day - Halloween - HumanLight - Labor Day - May Day - Mother's Day - Naadam - Pi Day - Presidents' Day - Spring break - Teachers' Day - Thanksgiving - Yom Yerushalayim

Winter holidays: Chinese New Year - Christmas - Dōngzhì - Eid ul-Adha - Festivus - Groundhog Day - Hanukkah - Kwanzaa - New Year's Eve - Shab-e Chelle - Sol Invictus - Twelfth Night - Valentine's - Winter Solstice - Yule

Personalities: Easter Bunny - Christmas elves - Father Time - The Great Pumpkin - Guy Fawkes - Headless Horseman - Jack Frost - Leprechaun - Santa Claus - Ebenezer Scrooge

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