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Alaska Day in the United States

Alaska Day marks the anniversary of the formal transfer of the territory from Russia to the United States and the raising of the United States flag at Sitka on October 18, 1867. It is usually celebrated on October 18 each year.

One of the symbols of Alaska is the moose, the state's land mammal.
One of the symbols of Alaska is the moose, the state's land mammal.
©iStockphoto.com/Eliza Snow

What Do People Do?

The Alaska Day festival is annually celebrated in the city of Sitka, Alaska. The three-day festival usually involves: a mayor’s proclamation; a costume ball featuring period costumes; dance performances; races; a concert; an army band; an air-sea rescue demonstration; an open house on board a coast guard cutter or naval vessel; and tea at the Pioneer’s Home.

On Alaska Day many people involved in the armed forces join in a memorial service at the Sitka National Cemetery and in a parade throughout the city’s business district. School bands, marching units and costumed participants are among the many people who participate in the parade. A re-enactment of the 1867 ceremony also occurs on this day – it involves the lowering of the Russian flag and the raising of the United States flag on top of Castle Hill, accompanied by ceremonial music.

Public Life

Alaska Day is an official state holiday so state government offices, the Alaska court system, state library, schools (closed for students), and many businesses are closed. Employees are entitled to take a day off during this holiday. When the holiday falls on a Saturday it is observed on the Friday before. If the holiday falls on a Sunday it is observed the following Monday.


After 68 years of Russian rule in Sitka, Alaska, the Russian flag at the governor’s house was lowered on October 18, 1867, and replaced with a United States flag. Two years before, the transcontinental telegraph line reached Sitka, and old expansionist dreams were rekindled. The United States bought the territory for 7.2 million dollars. Many Americans thought this was a waste of money and called Alaska “Seward’s Folly”, after William Seward, the state’s secretary who championed the purchase.

Little happened to interest the residence of the rest of the United States until gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1897. The gold rush era in Alaska began with the gold discovery by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris. Soon hundreds of prospectors poured into the site that later became Alaska’s capital city. In 1897, gold was discovered on the Klondike River in Canada. About 10,000 fortune seekers headed for the Klondike gold fields. Many of them hiked from Skagway across the Chilkoot Trail. In 1898, gold was found on the beaches near the Alaskan city of Nome. A city of tents sprang up overnight and by 1900, 232 ships had arrived in Nome carrying nearly 18,000 prospectors.

During World War II, Alaska’s strategic position was important. By the time Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands in 1943, more than 140,000 military personnel were stationed in Alaska. The Aleutian campaign, known as the "One Thousand Mile War," was the first battle fought on American soil since the Civil War. Alaska maintained its status as a territory until it became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959.


The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word “Alyeska”, meaning “great land”. The state’s nickname is “the last frontier”. The state motto is “North to the Future”. It was chosen in 1967 during the Alaska Purchase Centennial and represents Alaska as a land of promise. The state seal was designed in 1910 while Alaska was a territory and not a state. The rays above the mountains represent the Northern Lights. The smelter symbolizes mining. The train stands for Alaska’s railroads and ships denote transportation by sea. The trees symbolize Alaska’s forests, and the farmer, his horse, and the three shocks of wheat represent Alaskan agriculture. The fish and the seals signify the importance of fishing and wildlife to Alaska’s economy.

The state flag features a blue field, which is for the sky and the forget-me-not, the state flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly of the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear, symbolizing strength. Other state symbols include: the willow ptarmigan (state bird); the giant king salmon (state fish); forget-me-not (state flower); gold (state mineral); the moose (state land mammal); the bowhead whale (state marine mammal); and the Sitka spruce (state tree).

External Links

State of Alaska home page

Alaska Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere It is Observed
MonOct 182010Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
TueOct 182011Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
ThuOct 182012Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
FriOct 182013Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
FriOct 172014Alaska Day observedState holidayAlaska
SatOct 182014Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
SunOct 182015Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
MonOct 192015Alaska Day observedState holidayAlaska
TueOct 182016Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
WedOct 182017Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
ThuOct 182018Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
FriOct 182019Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
SunOct 182020Alaska DayState holidayAlaska
MonOct 192020Alaska Day observedState holidayAlaska

Quick Facts

Alaska Day is an official holiday in Alaska, the United States, on October 18 each year. It commemorates the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States on October 18, 1867.

Alaska Day 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018 (local in Alaska)

Alaska Day 2019

Friday, October 18, 2019 (local in Alaska)


Name in other languages

Alaska DayEnglish
Día de AlaskaSpanish
יום אלסקהHebrew
ألاسكا يومArabic
알래스카 주Korean

List of dates for other years

Related holiday

Other holidays in October 2018 in the United States

Fun Holiday on October 18, 2018

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