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Federal holidays in the United States: Wikis


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In the United States, a federal holiday is a public holiday recognized by the United States government. Non-essential federal government offices are closed. All federal employees are paid for the holiday; those who are required to work on the holiday sometimes receive wages for that day in addition to holiday pay.


List of holidays

Federal holidays are designated by the United States Congress in Title V of the United States Code (5 U.S.C. § 6103).[1]

Constitutionally, there are no "national holidays" in the United States because Congress only has authority to create holidays for federal institutions (including federally owned properties) and employees, and for the District of Columbia. Instead, there are federal holidays, state holidays, city holidays, and so on.

Currently, there are eleven U.S. Federal holidays, most (but not all) of which are also state holidays.

Date Official Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Celebrates beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include countdowns to midnight (12:00 AM).
Third Monday in January Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader; combined with other holidays in several states (King's birthday was January 15)
January 20, every fourth year, following Presidential election Inauguration Day Swearing-in of President of the United States and other elected federal officials. Observed only by federal government employees in Washington, D.C., and certain counties and cities of Maryland and Virginia, in order to relieve congestion that occurs with this major event. Note: Takes place on January 21 if the 20th is a Sunday (although the President still takes the oath of office on the 20th).
Third Monday in February Washington's Birthday Honors George Washington. Often popularly observed as "Presidents Day" in recognition of other American presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln (who was born February 12). The legal name of the federal holiday, however, is "Washington's Birthday". (It was historically observed on February 22, prior to passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act by Congress)
Last Monday in May Memorial Day Also known as "Decoration Day", Memorial Day originated in the nineteenth century as a day to remember the soldiers who gave their lives in the American Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. Later, the practice of decorating graves came to include members of one's own family, whether they saw military service or not. Memorial Day is traditionally the beginning of the summer recreational season in America. (It was historically observed on May 30, prior to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act)
July 4 Independence Day Celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Also known as "the Fourth of July".
First Monday in September Labor Day Celebrates achievements of workers and the labor movement. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer recreational season in America. The following day often marks the beginning of autumn classes in primary and secondary schools.
Second Monday in October Columbus Day Celebrated since 1792 in New York City, honors Christopher Columbus, who landed in the Americas on October 12, 1492. In some areas it is also a celebration of Italian-American culture and heritage. Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Columbus Day in 1934 as a Federal holiday at the behest of the Knights of Columbus (historically observed on October 12, prior to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act)
November 11 Veterans Day Also known as Armistice Day, and very occasionally called "Remembrance Day", 'Veterans Day' is the American name for the international holiday which commemorates the signing of the Armistice ending World War I. In the United States, the holiday honors all veterans of the United States Armed Forces, whether or not they have served in a conflict; but it especially honors the surviving veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The American holiday was briefly moved to the final Monday in October under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, but the change was greatly disliked and soundly criticized - among other reasons, because it put Veterans Day out of sync with international observance; so it was restored to November 11.
Fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day Traditionally celebrates giving thanks for the autumn harvest, and customarily includes the consumption of a turkey dinner. It is also influenced by a dinner shared by Native American Indians and the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Historically, Thanksgiving was observed on various days, though Americans disagreed when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to move it to the third Thursday of November, at the request of numerous powerful American merchants. (Many Americans also receive the Friday following Thanksgiving Day off work, and so many people begin their Christmas shopping on that Friday that moving it a week earlier would provide merchants an extra week of Christmas-related revenue.)
December 25 Christmas Day A Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Aspects of the holiday include decorations, emphasis on family togetherness, and gift giving. Designated a federal holiday by Congress and President U.S. Grant in 1870.

The official names came from the laws that defines holidays for federal employees. The "Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr." holiday is commonly called "Martin Luther King Day", and the "Washington's Birthday" holiday is commonly called "Presidents' Day". Independence Day is often called "The 4th of July".

New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day and Christmas Day are observed on the same calendar date each year. Holidays that fall on a Saturday are observed by federal employees who work a standard Monday to Friday week on the previous Friday. Federal employees who work on Saturday will observe the holiday on Saturday; Friday will be a regular work day. Holidays that fall on a Sunday are observed by federal workers the following Monday. The other holidays always fall on a particular day of the week.[2]

Federal law cannot compel state, municipal or other local governments to observe or recognize federal holidays in any way (U.S. Const., Amend. X effectively reserves holiday creation policy to the governments of the several states). Most states do recognize all federal holidays, however, though some are slower than others to adopt them. Arizona and New Hampshire notably refused to establish Martin Luther King, Jr's. birthday as a legal holiday until long after the federal and 48 other state governments had already done so. California does not recognize Columbus Day, but celebrates the date of admission to statehood, Admission Day.

Neither are private employers required to observe federal or state holidays, although many businesses will close at least for New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Many businesses, other than retail establishments, also close on Thanksgiving Friday, that is, the day after Thanksgiving. Some private employers may be required by a union contract to pay a differential such as time-and-a-half or double-time to employees who work on some Federal holidays. However, most non-unionized private sector employees only receive their standard pay for working on a federal holiday if it is not a designated holiday at their company.

Public holidays due to presidential proclamation

Federal law also provides for the declaration of other public holidays by the President of the United States. Generally the president will provide a reasoning behind the elevation of the day, and call on the people of the United States to observe the day "with appropriate ceremonies and activities." However, there is no requirement that business or government close on these days, and many members of the general public may not be aware that such holidays even exist. Holidays proclaimed in this way may be considered "national" holidays, but are not "federal" holidays.

For example, by Executive Order, President George W. Bush declared September 11, 2002 a "National Day of Mourning" in honor of those that died in the September 11 terrorist attacks and ordered all executive departments, independent establishments, and other governmental agencies closed. This did not apply to governmental agencies that should remain open for reasons of national security or defense or other essential public business.


Some people have objected to honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and/or Christopher Columbus with holidays. As a result, Martin Luther King Day took several years to gain national acceptance and is called "Civil Rights Day" in some locations. Some local jurisdictions observe "Indigenous Peoples of the Americas Day" instead of "Columbus Day". Similarly, some public schools in the US rename the vacation taken near and after Christmas "Winter Holiday" or "Winter Break", to avoid the implication that all students are obligated to observe Christian or nominally Christian holidays. State and local legal names for any particular holiday do not have any bearing upon the names of federal holidays. Some schools observe "Cesar Chavez Day" instead of Columbus Day, in honor of Cesar Chavez.

See also


External links



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