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

2017 Federal Holidays

Monday, January 2: New Year’s Day*
Monday, January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 20Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 29: Memorial Day
Tuesday, July 4: Independence Day
Monday, September 4: Labor Day
Monday, October 9: Columbus Day
Friday, November 10: Veterans Day**
Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving Day
Monday, December 25: Christmas Day

*January 1, 2017 (the legal public holiday for New Year's Day), falls on a Sunday. Most federal offices will be closed on Monday, January 2, 2017, in observance of New Year's Day.
**November 11, 2017 (the legal public holiday for Veterans Day), falls on a Saturday. Most federal offices will be closed on Friday, November 10, 2017, in observance of Veterans Day.

On Inauguration Day, Friday, January 20, 2017, many federal offices in the Washington, DC, area will be closed.

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.

Back to Top

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. 

Coins

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.

Back to Top

Museums

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
  • History—Natural, Cultural, and Military
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Archeology
  • Anthropology and Ethnology (branch of anthropology that analyzes cultures)
  • Children's Museums

Federal and Smithsonian Art and Cultural Museums

Military Museums 

Back to Top

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, more than 300 languages are 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.

Back to Top

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 is a widely used system in the U.S. that adjusts the official local time forward one hour during spring and summer months. Clocks are moved ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March at 2 a.m. (local time). Clocks are moved back one hour on the first Sunday in November at 2 a.m. (local time).

Some people remember which way to move their clocks by using the phrase, "spring forward, fall back."

Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and most of Arizona.

Back to Top

Last Updated: December 22, 2016

Do you need help?

Ask us any question about the U.S. government for free. We'll get you the answer or tell you where to find it.

What you think matters!