Federal holidays in the United States
Federal holidays are designated by Congress in Title V of the United States Code (5 U.S.C. § 6103). Federal holiday is a day off for federal employees, which also means that banks and postal offices are closed. Most private companies and certain other businesses observe federal holidays as well, or the big holidays. If a holiday falls on a Saturday it is celebrated the preceding Friday; if a holiday falls on a Sunday it is celebrated the following Monday. Most, but not all, states and most private businesses also observe a Sunday holiday on the following Monday.
There is no generally accepted policy, however, on whether to observe a Saturday holiday on the preceding Friday or the following Monday. Most states and private businesses may observe on the preceding Friday, some may observe it on the following Monday, and some may not observe the holiday at all in those years. In particular, banks that close on Saturdays do not observe a holiday when it falls on Saturday.
January 1 New Year’s Day Celebrates beginning of the Gregorian calendar year. Festivities include counting down to midnight (12:00 AM) on the preceding night, New Year’s Eve, often with fireworks display and party. Traditional end of Christmas and holiday season.
Third Monday in January Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Honors Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights leader, who was actually born on January 15, 1929; combined with other holidays in several states.
First January 20 following a Presidential election Inauguration Day Observed only by federal government employees in Washington, D.C., and the border counties of Maryland and Virginia, in order to relieve congestion that occurs with this major event. Swearing-in of President of the United States and Vice President of the United States. Celebrated every fourth year. Note: Takes place on January 21 if the 20th is a Sunday (although the President is still privately inaugurated on the 20th). If Inauguration Day falls on a Saturday, the preceding Friday is not a federal holiday.
Third Monday in February Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day Washington’s Birthday was first declared a federal holiday by an 1879 act of Congress. The Uniform Holidays Act, 1968, shifted the date of the commemoration of Washington’s Birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February (between February 15 and 21, meaning the observed holiday never falls on Washington’s actual birthday). Because of this, combined with the fact that President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday falls on February 12, many people now refer to this holiday as “Presidents’ Day” and consider it a day honoring all American presidents. However, neither the Uniform Holidays Act nor any subsequent law changed the name of the holiday from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day.
Last Monday in May Memorial Day Honors the nation’s war dead from the Civil War onwards; marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season. (traditionally May 30, shifted by the Uniform Holidays Act 1968)
July 4 Independence Day Celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, also called the Fourth of July. Firework celebrations are held in many cities throughout the nation.
First Monday in September Labor Day Celebrates the achievements of workers and the labor movement; marks the unofficial end of the summer season.
Second Monday in October Columbus Day Honors Christopher Columbus, traditional discoverer of the Americas. In some areas it is also a celebration of Italian culture and heritage. (traditionally October 12) In some states, it is celebrated as “Indigenous People’s Day” as a celebration of the Native Americans, not Columbus.
November 11 Veterans Day Honors all veterans of the United States armed forces. It is observed on November 11 to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918 (major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice).
Fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day Traditionally celebrates the giving of thanks for the autumn harvest. Traditionally includes the sharing of a turkey dinner. Traditional start of the Christmas and holiday season.
December 25 Christmas The most widely celebrated holiday of the Christian year, Christmas is observed as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Christmas customs are centuries old. The mistletoe, for example, comes from the Druids, who, in hanging the mistletoe, hoped for peace and good fortune. Comparatively recent is the Christmas tree, first set up in Germany in the 17th century. Colonial Manhattan Islanders introduced the name Santa Claus, a corruption of the Dutch name for St. Nicholas, who lived in fourth-century Asia Minor. Some of its aspects are secular.
Federal Holidays Calendars from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.