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Summer 2011 Holidays: Three-Day Weekends Galore


Summer 2011 holidays begin with the Summer Solstice on June 21 (in the Northern Hemisphere), the longest day and shortest night of the year. Over the centuries, this day has been known as Midsummer, St. John's Day or Litha and was especially important in such ancient religions as Druidism and Wicca. Summer 2011 officially ends on September 21, when fall begins.

But most folks don't plan their vacations around the solstice, so here are the major Summer 2011 holidays.

Memorial Day
Technically, Memorial Day takes place before the Summer Solstice, but most people in the United States consider this holiday to be the start of the vacation season for summer. The holiday in 2011 falls on May 30; it always falls on the last Monday of May. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is to commemorate those who have died while serving in the military. Nearly as important to some people, it's the first of the Summer 2011 holidays to encompass a three-day weekend, allowing for longer weekend getaways.

Father's Day
A day to honor one's father (or grandfather), this summer holiday falls on the third Sunday of June in the United States. In 2011, it will be on June 18. Traditionally, children give their fathers cards and gifts (can you say ugly ties and cheap cologne?). Though the roots of Father's Day in the U.S. stretch to the early 1900s, the government did not recognize it as an official observance until 1972.

Independence Day
This holiday, known also as the Fourth of July, marks the signing of the United States' Declaration of Independence from England on, you guessed it, July 4, 1776. It's a day of patriotic concerts and events, picnics, family reunions, and when the sun goes down, fireworks! The 2011 summer holiday falls on a Monday, which makes it another three-day weekend. Travelers should expect a lot of traffic on the road this year.

Labor Day
As Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer vacation season, Labor Day is traditionally considered the end. It's always on the first Monday of September. In Summer 2011, the holiday falls on September 5, yet another three-day weekend. Originally conceived as a celebration of the U.S. labor movement and its trade unions, Labor Day is mostly now a day for rest, picnics, parties and barbecues. Though some political and trade union celebrations occur, they are more low-key than in earlier years. Also, society women once considered it unfashionable to wear white after this summer holiday, but in 2011, that taboo no longer is widely embraced.

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