Cultural events in January
There are two nationally recognized days in January: New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King’s birthday.
New Year’s Day has both practical and psychological aspects to it. On the practical side, most in the U.S. have the day off from work. If they are sports fans, they engage in an overabundance of football broadcasts on TV. Top college teams compete in historical venues like the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Rose Bowl. If they over-celebrated the night before, it is a day to sleep in and recover.
On the psychological side, people take the new year as a chance to reflect on their life priorities and look for areas to change and improve. This is frequently a day for starting new exercise programs to become healthier, new diets to lose excess weight (especially after heavy dining over the long Christmas break), and programs to be more organized or tidier, or more involved in charitable work. Making such promises to oneself—whether publicly announced or privately held—are called New Year’s Resolutions, resolving to do better in some way than in the past year.
Martin Luther King Day is celebrated on the Monday nearest to January 15, the birthday of the African American minister and civil rights organizer who was assassinated in 1967. Dr. King led a nonviolent but powerfully convicted movement against racial inequality in the U.S., primarily as it affected the American American community. His most famous speech, given in Washington, DC in 1963 is iconic and can be heard here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm. (The site also has the text of the speech for you to read.) It is considered one of the most powerful and influential public speeches in American history.
On this day, many schools close, speeches are made, and educational programs are held. Some see MLK Day as a warm-up for the monthlong activities that follow in February, which is now designated Black History Month.