Monday 19th January – Martin Luther King Day – Federal
– a day of observance for human rights held around the birthday of the great Civil Rights leader.
Saturday 24th January – F<3 Frozen Half Marathon
– a unique and flipping freezing race thunk up and established by a British Expat! Crazy popular with hundreds of runners braving the guaranteed freezing conditions. Sign up here
Sunday 25th January – Burns Night
– if ye feel the need to address the haggis in Chicago, then the Chicago Scots society organise a fabulous Burns Night Supper on the following weekend. See more infor here >>
Saturday 31st January – HMRC Deadline for paying your UK Taxes for 2013/14
– if you owe HMRC money from the 2013 / 14 year, you have until midnight to get online and pay it!
Saturday 31st January – Look out got your Form-W2’s
– at some point in January your employer gives you your “W2” which you need to complete your USA tax return. Deadline for submitting your individual USA tax returns is Wednesday 15th April.
Sunday 1st February – Super Bowl Sunday
– a definite date for your diary! Many places throw big all day parties to celebrate. The adverts and entertainment are as important and talked about as the sport. This year hosted in Arizona. Kick off is 5.30pm Chicago time. My idiots guide coming soon…. watch this space.
Tuesday 17th February – Pancake Day / Mardi Gras
– don’t expect any American to know what the hell you are talking about if you mention Pancake Day because a) what we call pancakes they call crepes and b) every day is pancake day if you are an American, they are a breakfast staple food. Celebrations in Illinois centre on food especially from Polish and Swedish Lenten traditional fare like paczki donuts and semla buns. Some bakeries serve the New Orleans’ King Cakes and Galette des Rois Warning: ladies, if someone offers you Mardi Gras beads think twice before you accept them!
Thursday 12 February – Lincoln’s Birthday – State
– special events for the Illinoisan President are held in Washington DC and at Lincoln’s tomb in our State capital Springfield Illinois. Schools and public offices in Illinois are closed.
Monday 16 February – Presidents’ Day – Federal
– George Washington’s birthday is celebrated on the third Monday of February. Expect lots of flags and lots of amazing sales in the shops.
Monday 2 February – Groundhog Day
– believe it or not, yes this is an actual thing! And yes, it is exactly like in the film! The world’s most legendary rodent Punxsutawney Phil leads the action down in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania. Let’s hope he doesn’t see his shadow this year!
Sunday 1st March – Polar Plunge
– exactly what it sounds like! Plunge into Lake Michigan. Last year Mayor Rahm Emanuel challenged TV star Jimmy Fallon to do it and he accepted the challenge with aplomb…
Sunday 1st March – St David’s Day
– If you are a British Expat of Welsh origin you MUST connect with the Chicago Welsh Tafia (geddit?) who organise great events round this time. Visit their website for more info.
Monday 2nd March – Pulaski Day – State
– the first Monday of March celebrates the birthday of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish born soldier who played a significant role in the War of Independence, saving the life of George Washington. And then we shot him. #Awkward.
Wednesday 4th March – Chicago’s Birthday!
– the city is 178 years “old” this year. Thats about 1,800 years younger than London…
Sunday 8th March – Clocks Go Back in Chicago Only
– remember you are an hour closer to the UK for a couple of weeks. So +5 hours rather than +6 hours. Extra time to Skype or get business done! UK clocs go back on the Sunday 29th March.
Saturday 14th March – Pi Day
– the American date today is 3.14 which is pi, geddit? Expect lots of special offers on pies. Seriously. This is an actual day. But just remember that Americans think of pie as a sweet dish so dont go hoping for a steak and ale.
Sunday 15th March – UK Mothers Day
– TAKE NOTE! Mothers Day is different in the USA and UK. The UK date is the middle Sunday of Lent and traditions stem from when children in service and factories were allowed a day off to return to their home or “mother” church. The American version (copied from this) is a Hallmark created celebration in June. Celebrate one, celebrate both, just don’t forget!
Tuesday 17th March – St Patrick’s Day / St Paddys Day
– Chicago really leads the way in celebrating Irelands patron saint day. The river is dyed bright green (and I mean bright green), every town has a big parade and every pub is stuffed to the gills with behatted drunks in “Kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirts. The weather has a huge affect on the level of chaos, for example in 2011, there was freezing sleet but in 2012 it was 32 degrees and everyone got sunburnt. It is a thing to wear green for luck. If you’re English, prepare yourself for some awkward questions and jaw droppingly misguided beliefs about The Troubles and The IRA.
Thursday 26th March – Monday 6th April – March Madness (College Basketball)
– this is an important sporting event that I don’t yet understand! Can anyone shed any light? Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday 29th March – Shamrock Shuffle
– Chicago loves to run and this 5 miler is a whole lot of fun.
Sunday 19th March – Clocks Go Back in the UK
– the UK catches up and we are back to being 6 hours apart.
Friday 3rd April – Good Friday
– not a day off in America (unless you’re at a Catholic school) so not that Good a Friday really : (
Sunday 5th April – Easter Sunday
– Look out for egg hunts for the kids and lots of bunny related fun. Note that American Easter is more about jelly beans than chocolate eggs!
Sunday 5th April – Sunday 4th October – Chicago Cubs Baseball Season
– this is the year Back to the Future predicted we’d win the World Series! (nope)
Sunday 5th April – HMRC British Tax Year Ends
– start getting your things in order for your UK self-assessment return. If you are doing a paper return (which most Expats have to do as the online system doesn’t cover the forms you need) the deadline for your return is 31st October.
Monday 6th April – Easter Monday
– UK only sorry! Just a totally normal day in the USA! Make a note so that you can turn Facebook off for the day to avoid watching your British friends enjoy themselves down the pub.
Wednesday 15th April – USA Tax Return Deadline
– you must have sent in and submitted your returns by this date. You’ll then be notified how much you owe the State and the Federal which is due by October 15th (pay in full or in installments).
Wednesday 15th April until Mid June – Stanley Cup Ice Hockey Playoffs
– a huge deal in Chicago as The Blackhawks won “The Stanley Cup” in 2013 and it was bonkers. Ice hockey is a particular passion of sport-mad Chicagoans.
Tuesday 21st April – Royal Baby 2.0 Due / Queens 89th Birthday
– expect bonkers, bonkers media coverage and questions from your colleagues about the succession and people telling you how much they love Diana, erm I mean Kate.
Wednesday 22nd April – Earth Day
– much more of a thing here than in the UK. Expect well meaning gestures of environmentalism from the country with the second worst carbon emissions.
Monday 27th April 2015 – Postal Vote Deadline
– Postal vote deadline for the UK general election so make sure you have yours posted by 20th April.
Monday 4th May – May Bank Holiday
– UK only sorry, just another normal day here. Don’t expect any trade union parades or renditions of the Red Flag neither. They don’t go in for that sort of thing in this country.
Tuesday 5th May – Cinco de Mayo
– a fun Mexican holiday widely celebrated by Americans regardless of their heritage. Like St Patrick’s day but with better food.
Thursday 7th May 2015 – UK General Election
– Yes you can vote and yes you should vote, especially this year. More on this soon…
Saturday 23rd May – Eurovision Song Contest Final
– starting to get attention in the USA thanks to the power of social media and the fact that it gets millions more viewers than the Super Bowl! Austrians are hosting this year thanks to the victorious and gloriously bearded Conchita Wurst. The contest is live streamed online but if you want the awesome BBC commentary with the gorgeously acerbic Graham Norton then wait until it appears on BBC iPlayer at around 6pm Chicago time. Or host a party next day and play the “highlights”. More on this soon…
Monday 25th May – Memorial Day – Official Start of Summer!
Monday 25th May –Memorial Day – Federal
– a VERY important day as this marks the official start of summer. Expect a flurry of awesome seasonal stuff to open as Chicagoans ring every ounce of sunshine they can out of the next 12 weeks. Crack open your summer wardrobe with caution though, the weather can be 35C (2012) or zero (2014). Memorial Day is to America what Remembrance Sunday is to Brits. Read more on why in my article on Observing Remembrance Day in Chicago >>
Saturday 30th May – FA Cup Final
– join the Brits at The Globe to watch. Kick off at about 11am Chicago time (5pm UK time)
Monday 1st June – Presidential Election 2016
– not an official date but a good guess at when campaigning will start in earnest.
June TBC – Ravinia Music Festival
June TBC – Grant Park Music Festival
– a series of free concerts given in Grant Park at the beautiful Pritzker Pavillion. Bring a blanket and some booze and a picnic and relax for performances including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Friday 12th June – Chicago Blues Festival
– it’s free, it’s in Grant Park and it’s awesome. An absolute must. Packed crowds but brilliantly controlled and the music is just incredible. More info here >>
Friday 19th – Saturday 20th June – Scottish Highland Games
– organised by Chicago Scots and great fun for everyone. More about it here >>
Saturday 20th June – Sunday 21st June – Pride Fest
– set aside your prejudices, not just about the LGBT community but also about how you think American’s are about this important part of Chicago culture. There are a lot more open minds here than you have been led to believe, and yet still more to unlock. The annual Pride parade is an additional event on Sunday 28th June.
Sunday 21st June – Father’s Day
– the same in the USA and the UK! Phew. No need to worry about missing it.
Sunday 28th June – Pride Parade
– all the fabulousness you expect and far, far more.
Tuesday 30th June – Deadline for your Foreign Bank Account Report
– if you had more than $10,000 (£6,500) in your UK bank account AT ANY POINT in 2014 you need to fill in and send the US government this form >>
Saturday 4th July – Independence Day
– this year the best American holiday falls on a Saturday so Friday is your day off! Remember that you can’t buy fireworks here in Illinois but the proffessional displays are incredible. Get yourself up on a roof deck and enjoy the spectacle.
Thursday 9th July – Monday 13th July – Taste of Chicago
– your chance to taste some classic Chicago fare for a few dollars. Warning, don’t go expecting Michelin stars like at Taste of London! Similar name, very different event. We’re talking fun, street food, pizza, hot dogs, shawarma, chips and (you guessed it) corn. If you want a more high-end experience I suggest Chicago Gourmet in September.
Friday 31st July – Sunday 2nd August – Lollapalooza
– the Glastonbury of Chicago but without the tents and the mud. Keep your eyes glues to the website for updates on who is playing.
Saturday 15th – Sunday 16th August – Chicago Air and Water Show
– grab a deckchair or find yourself a high vantage point overlooking the Lake.
Sunday 30th August – Chicago Triathlon
– one of the largest triathlons in the world. Action takes part on the Lake. There is even a kids version. More info here >>
Monday 7th September – Labor Day – Official End of Summer
Monday 7th September – Labor Day – Federal
– booooooo the official end of summer. Make sure to book all your fun in before hand. Although this also marks the start of the lead up to Halloween and then Thanksgiving so think of corn mazes, harvest bounty, county fairs and apples and corn. Lots of corn. Also parades. This is the American equivalent of May Day. Just minus most of the hardcore left-wing stuff.
Wednesday 3rd – Saturday 6th September – Chicago Jazz Festival
– Millenium Park comes alive with cool jazzz in the week leading up to Labor Day weekend.
Friday 11th September – Saturday 12th September – Windy City Wine Festival
– exactly what it sounds like. Quoff and sip your way through some tasty vino in the gorgeous surroundings of Grant Park. More info here >>
Friday 18th September – Saturday 31st October – Rugby World Cup
– England are hosting! Kick off times in Chicago time are either 10am (4pm UK) or 2pm (8pm UK) Join us at Fado’s on Clarke to watch the games. Note: there is usually an on the door tariff for watching. Full fixture list here >>
Friday 25th – Sunday 27th September – Chicago Gourmet Food Festival
– a pricey yet fabulous foodie festival in Grant Park, ticket only and full of tasters from the finest restaurants in the city. Like a more upmarket Taste of Chicago.
Sunday 4th October – end of Cubs Baseball Season
– did Spielberg get it right? Did we win the World Series?? (Nope)
Sunday 11th October 2015 – Chicago Marathon
– a HUGE deal and a very different atmosphere to the London Marathon or even the Great North Run. This is serious. You won’t see many people dressed up for charity. Save the date as I will be organising a meetup for spectators so we can cheer people along.
Monday 12th October – Columbus Day – Federal
– the anniversary of the day the Spanish explorer set foot in this land. Not many businesses get the day off though.
Thursday 15th October – USA Tax Payment Deadline
– you should have paid all your taxes for 2014 by now.
Saturday 17th – Sunday 18th October – Open House Chicago
– Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper and some of the world’s most famous architecture. During this festival you can go inside some exclusive buildings that are normally private.
Saturday 17th October – The Sweetest Day
– a Midwestern holiday invented by the candy industry. Sort of like Valentines Day but without the need to be attached!
Sunday 25th October – Marty McFly Day
– OK I invented this. But there are sure to be a lot of parties as this was the day that he and the Doc travelled to. Great Scott! Pass me my hoverboard.
Sunday 25th October – Clocks in UK go BACK
– Clocks in the UK will go back one week before they do here. This means you are one hour closer for one week only!
Saturday 31st October – Halloween
– definitely a date for your diary! The American’s go gloriously all out, especially the young children. Schedule a visit to your local “pumpkin patch”, visit a live action haunted houses, take a haunted ghost walk or just stand by your door for four hours and hand out “candy”!
Saturday 31st October – HMRC Deadline for your Self Assessment Forms
– if you are completing a paper return (which you probably are) this is your deadline!
Sunday 1st November – Clocks in Chicago Go BACK
– Note that they already went back in the UK the week before on Sunday 25th October.
Saturday 7th November – James Bond “Spectre” Released
– put this date in your diary! We will be doing a big meetup to go and watch it and to celebrate Bonfire Night.
Wednesday 11th November – Veterans Day / Remembrance Day
– no poppies in sight, read about the difference between Veterans Day and the British Remembrance Day here in my article on Observing Remembrance Day in Chicago >>
Thursday 26th November – Thanksgiving Day
Thursday 26th November – Thanksgiving – Federal
– this is the actual day with the food and feasting. There is no “Thanksgiving Eve” and remember this is the ONLY four day weekend in the American calender so make the most of it! Correction: Lots of you emailing me to say not all employers give the Friday off! Only the Thursday is an official holiday. Boooo.
Friday 27th November – Black Friday
– it is to Thanksgiving what Boxing Day is to a British Christmas Day. But add more mental.
Monday 30th November – St Andrew’s Day
– If you are a British Expat of Scottish origin you should definitely connect with the Chicago Society who do all sorts of things throughout the year. Visit their website for more information.
Friday 25 December – Christmas Day
– but no Boxing Day or Monday off unless you work for a British company! Sorry!
Did I miss anything? Comment below and help me make this list even more helpful!
EDITS: edits were made to this article on 5th January adding suggestion made via Facebook. Special thanks to Jaime B who sent an incredible list of stuff I’d forgotten which included the Mothers Days (how could I!) and corrections were made to a few misconceptions I had about American federal holidays. Thanks Jaime!