Learn About Life in the United States

Learn more about living in the United States of America.

American Holidays

Federal Holidays

Many government offices close on federal holidays and some private businesses may close as well. If the holiday falls during the weekend, the government may observe it on a different day. Federal employees receive pay and many receive time off for federal holidays

2016 Federal Holidays

Friday, January 1: New Year’s Day
Monday, January 18: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 15: Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 30: Memorial Day
Monday, July 4: Independence Day
Monday, September 5: Labor Day
Monday, October 10: Columbus Day
Friday, November 11: Veterans Day
Thursday, November 24: Thanksgiving Day
Monday, December 26: Christmas Day*

*December 25, 2016 (the legal public holiday for Christmas Day), falls on a Sunday. Most federal offices will be closed on Monday, December 26, 2016, in observance of Christmas Day.

Commonly Celebrated Holidays and Observances

Some holidays honor specific groups and events, such as Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Flag Day, and Halloween. These are not federal holidays. Some holidays and observances receive Presidential proclamations.

Ethnic and Religious Holidays

Various ethnic and religious groups in the United States celebrate days with special meaning to them. Some of these holidays include Easter for Christians, the High Holy Days for Jews, Ramadan for Muslims, Day of Vesak for Buddhists, and Diwali for Hindus.

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American Money

The United States issues paper currency and coins to pay for purchases, taxes, and debts.

Paper Money

American paper currency is issued in several denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing manufactures paper money. It also redesigns money, with new appearances and enhanced security features to prevent counterfeiting. You can purchase commemorative or bulk versions of American currency through the Bureau's Money Store.

The United States no longer issues bills in larger denominations, such as $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills. However, they are still legal tender and may still be in circulation. 


The United States issues several denominations, with the most common being: 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1. The U.S. Mint is responsible for manufacturing and circulating coins to pay for goods and services. It also issues collectible and commemorative coins that honor a person, place, or event and are available for purchase.

Mutilated Money

If you have paper money that is extremely damaged, you can redeem it with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Examples of damaged paper money include bills that are less than one half of the bill, or in such a condition that you are unable to tell the denomination of the bill. If you have paper money that is dirty, defaced, torn, or more than half of the original size, you can take it to your local bank to exchange it for a bill that is in better shape.

If you have any coins that are fused, melted, or mutilated in any other way, you can send them to the U.S. Mint for evaluation. You can exchange other coins that aren't severely damaged at your local bank.

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Help for New Immigrants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) provides a website called WelcometoUSA.gov, which helps new immigrants find basic information on how to settle in the United States. The site also provides federal government resources and organizations that can assist you in learning English, applying for U.S. Citizenship, tips on managing money, finding child care and much more.  They provide a free downloadable and comprehensive Welcome to the United States guide, which is available in 14 languages. 

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Museums collect and care for objects of scientific, artistic, or historical importance and make them available for public viewing. They generally concentrate on a particular subject, and most belong to one or more of the following categories:

  • Fine Arts or Applied Arts
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology and Ethnology (branch of anthropology that analyzes cultures)
  • History - Natural, Cultural, and Military
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Children's Museums

Federal and Smithsonian Art and Cultural Museums

Military Museums 

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Official Language of the United States

There is no "official" language at the federal level for the United States. Although the most commonly used language is English, there are over 300 languages spoken or signed by the population. Some individual states list English as their official language. If you would like the United States or your state to adopt an official language, you should contact your elected officials.

The federal government is required to provide access to federal programs and federally assisted programs for people with limited English proficiency. To access more information about this topic, please visit the Limited English Proficiency website.

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Time Zones

The continental U.S. (including Alaska) spans five time zones. American Samoa, Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin islands are located in additional time zones.

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a widely used system that adjusts the official local time forward ("spring ahead") from the official standard time during summer months, usually by one hour.

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