Public holidays in the United States
Observed byFederal government
State governments
Local governments
Private and public sector employers
TypeNational

In the United States, public holidays are set by federal, state, and local governments and are often observed by closing government offices or giving government employees paid time off. The federal government does not require any private business to close or offer paid time off, as is the case for most state local governments, so employers determine which holidays to observe.

Several federal holidays are widely observed by private businesses with paid time off. These include New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Additionally, businesses often close or grant paid time off for New Year's Eve, Christmas Eve, and the Day after Thanksgiving, but none of these are federal holidays. Other federal holidays are less widely observed by business. Most federal holidays are regularly celebrated on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend.

Christmas is the only religious holiday that is a federal holiday. Some businesses allow employees of non-Christian religions to take paid time off for their religious observances.

Other holidays, such as Halloween and Valentine's Day, are widely celebrated in the United States but rarely include paid time off.


Overview

A jack-o'-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween

There are no national holidays on which the law requires all businesses to close. Federal holidays are only established for certain federally chartered and regulated businesses, government contractors, and the city of Washington, DC. All other public holidays are created by the States; most states also allow local jurisdictions (cities, villages, etc.) to establish their own local holidays. As a result, holidays have not historically been governed at the federal level and federal law does not govern business openings.

Many states also have additional holidays that are not observed by the federal government.[1] Most prominent among these are holidays to celebrate statehood. Since 2000, some city and state-level celebrations of Malcolm X Day and Rosa Parks Day have been created, in addition to the federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to honor and recognize African American contributions to the United States. Illinois and Berkeley, California are two places where Malcolm X is honored by a legal holiday with offices closed, whereas Missouri honors Rosa Parks on her birthday.[2][3]

Saint Patrick's Day parade in Atlanta, 2012

Many businesses observe certain holidays as well, which are also not mandated by any government agency. Many workplaces celebrate religious observance as well as ethnic holidays, such as Saint Patrick's Day, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Mardi Gras, and Cinco de Mayo, as a matter of best practice.[4]

While the popularity of each public holiday cannot easily be measured, the holiday with the highest greeting card sales is Christmas.[5] Major retail establishments, such as shopping malls and centers, close only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but remain open on all other holidays (with early closings on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and sometimes on other major holidays). In the face of a rapidly tightening retail market in the 2010s, retailers have increasingly been opening on Thanksgiving evening and night to extend Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, however, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly limited this practice.[6][7] Virtually all large companies observe and close on the major holidays (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Some non-retail businesses close on the day after Thanksgiving, while others (such as federal banks and post offices) are not allowed to close that day. Some smaller businesses normally open on Sundays will close on Easter Sunday if they expect to have very few customers that day.[8]

Holiday business restrictions

Some states, however, do restrict certain business activities on some holidays.[9] Business closures are mandated on a few holidays in some states for certain kinds of businesses by blue laws. For example, businesses that operate on more than 5,000 square feet (460 m2) cannot open on Thanksgiving in some New England states. The most notable businesses to close on such occasions are car dealerships and liquor stores. Some holidays are observed with community service, depending on the meaning of the holiday. Service is, however, not mandated by any government agencies, whether they be federal, state, or local.

Federal holidays

Main article: Federal holidays in the United States

The 1979 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

The following federal holidays are observed by the majority of private businesses with paid time off:

Other federal holidays are less widely observed by businesses. These include:

Established in 2021, Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday. In its second year of federal observance, 30% of private employers offered paid time off.[11]

Holidays with religious significance

Main articles: Religion in the United States and Separation of church and state in the United States

Religious and cultural holidays in the United States are characterized by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. However, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." and Article VI specifies that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." As a result, various religious faiths have flourished, as well as perished, in the United States. A majority of Americans report that religion plays a "very important" role in their lives, a proportion unique among developed nations.[12]

The majority of Americans (73–80%) identify themselves as Christians and about 15–20% have no religious affiliation.[13] According to the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) (2008) 76% of the American adult population identified themselves as Christians, with 51% professing attendance at a variety of churches that could be considered Protestant or unaffiliated, and 25% professing Catholic beliefs.[14] The same survey says that other religions (including, for example, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) collectively make up about 4% of the adult population, another 15% of the adult population claim no religious affiliation, and 5.2% said they did not know, or they refused to reply. According to a 2012 survey by the Pew forum, 36 percent of Americans state that they attend services nearly every week or more.[15]

Christian holidays

Main article: Liturgical year

With 65% of adults in the U.S. identifying as Christian, many holidays from the liturgical calendar are observed by this segment of the population.[16] Many businesses, as well as federal, state, and local governments, are closed on Christmas.[17] A reference in the film A Christmas Story shows a Chinese restaurant being the only establishment open on Christmas.

Some private businesses and certain other institutions are closed on Good Friday.[18] The financial market and stock market is closed on Good Friday.[19] Most retail stores remain open, although some might close early. Public schools and most universities are closed on Good Friday, either as a holiday of its own, or part of spring break. The postal service operates, and banks regulated by the federal government do not close for Good Friday.[20]

Many companies, including banks, malls, shopping centers, and most private retail stores that normally open on Sundays are closed on Easter.[8]

Hindu holidays

Rangoli decorations, made using colored powder, are popular during Diwali.

Main article: List of Hindu festivals

The Hindu holidays of Diwali and Holi are celebrated in some parts of the United States, mostly by Indian Americans or peoples of Indian descent. [21][22] Holi, the "festival of colors" has inspired a Broadway musical based on this festival.[23] While not officially recognized in most of the United States, the New York City Council officially recognized these as official school holidays in New York City.[24] CNN reported that the Diwali holiday is shown in American pop culture through an episode of The Office.[25][26]

Jewish holidays

Main article: Hebrew calendar

A Hanukkah menorah

The three most commonly celebrated Jewish holidays are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah.[27] Passover and Yom Kippur in addition to Rosh Hashannah and Hanukkah are recognized as an optional state level holiday in Texas.[28][29] All Jewish holidays start the night before, as that is when the Jewish day begins.

Islamic holidays

Main article: Islamic holidays

The major Islamic holidays of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha have been recognized in the United States. Awareness of these holidays can be found in calendars published by major calendar manufacturers.[30][31][32] According to Al-Jazeera, schools in New York and Michigan (mainly Dearborn) may begin to close in observance of all Muslim holidays.[33]

Holidays with other cultural or historical significance

Drinking holidays

See also: Drinking culture

Crowds on Vine Street at the Oktoberfest in Cincinnati

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 86% of the population over 18 drinks alcohol recreationally or socially.[34] In the United States, the holidays that are considered the most "festive" are generally regarded as some of the "most drunken holidays". Celebrations usually revolve around barbecues and beer. Although many of these holidays lack any official status, they are generally observed by the drinking culture for the fact that these holidays revolve around drinking. One measurement of the popularity of these holidays is the amount of alcohol purchased for the occasion. One survey names New Year's Eve as the holiday on which the most alcohol is consumed based on sales.[35] While many holidays are listed, some are generally notable for their drinking requirement while others are known for abstinence.[36]

African American holidays

Main article: African-American culture

2003 Kwanzaa celebration with its founder, Maulana Karenga, and others

Some holidays in the United States celebrate or recognize the struggle of African-Americans for emancipation from slavery and civil rights. Two holidays are celebrated as Federal holidays:

Some states and cities have additional holidays honoring African-Americans:

A significant African-American cultural celebration is Kwanzaa, observed from December 26 to January 1.[39] Created by Maulana Karenga in 1966, the holiday honors African heritage in African-American culture.[40]

Confederate holidays

Some states celebrate holidays honoring the Confederate States of America that seceded from the United States to protect slavery. Many of these state holidays were created in the early twentieth century, fifty years after the end of the Civil War, as part of the myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.[41]

Other traditional and informal holidays

Cinco de Mayo performers at the White House

In addition to the federal/national holidays, many religious, ethnic, and other traditional holidays populate the calendar, as well as lighter celebrations. These are rarely observed by businesses as holidays;[8] indeed, many are viewed as opportunities for commercial promotion. Because of this commercialization, some critics apply the deprecatory term Hallmark holiday to such days, after the Hallmark greeting card company.

Other notable holidays

United States Air Force Super Bowl party

See also

References

  1. ^ "State Holidays". Infoplease.com. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  2. ^ "Rosa Parks to be honored by Missouri on Feb 4th". Archived from the original on January 6, 2017.
  3. ^ "Illinois designates May 19 as Malcolm X Day". May 20, 2015.
  4. ^ "2014 Diversity Holidays". Archived from the original on October 21, 2014.
  5. ^ Enten, Harry J. (December 22, 2012). "Christmas may be on the cards, but is it the most popular American holiday?". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Hours". Mall of America. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  7. ^ "Black Friday shopping like we all know it is officially over because of COVID-19". finance.yahoo.com. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  8. ^ a b c "Optional Time-Off Benefits You Can Give Your Employees | BizFilings Toolkit". Toolkit.com. May 25, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  9. ^ Massachusetts, for example, forbids most retailers from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas: Attorney General's Office, "Sunday and Holiday Openings" "Office of Attorney General Maura Healey". Archived from the original on August 30, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  10. ^ "SHRM: 2015 Holiday Schedules". November 10, 2014.
  11. ^ Ali, Shirin (June 17, 2022). "Growing number of businesses are giving employees Juneteenth off". The Hill. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  12. ^ "Among Wealthy Nations U.S. Stands Alone in its Embrace of Religion". Pew Global Attitudes Project. December 19, 2002. Retrieved January 1, 2007.
  13. ^ ""Nones" on the Rise". The Pew Forum. October 9, 2012. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  14. ^ US Census Bureau (September 30, 2011). "Table 75. Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population: 1990, 2001 and 2008, The methodology of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS)". US Census Bureau 2012 Statistical Abstract. Archived from the original on December 25, 2007. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  15. ^ "The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life – Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths". Pewforum.org. July 19, 2012. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  16. ^ "In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace". Archived from the original on March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  17. ^ "What will be open Christmas Day". Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  18. ^ "Good Friday in United States". timeanddate.com. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  19. ^ "Stock Market Holidays". money-zine.com. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  20. ^ "Federal Holidays". Opm.gov. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  21. ^ "Diwali Goes Mainstream". Huffington Post. October 25, 2011.
  22. ^ "Diwali 2013 in the USA and UK". November 4, 2013.
  23. ^ "Color Me Rad 5K – 2 Million Fans with New Color Blaster". Archived from the original on March 2, 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  24. ^ "USA: Hindus laud New York City Council for resolution on Diwali holiday in City schools". Archived from the original on February 18, 2014.
  25. ^ "Diwali".
  26. ^ "6 things you should know about Diwali". CNN.
  27. ^ "Jewish Holidays".
  28. ^ "Rosh Hashanah".
  29. ^ "Holidays – Tablet Magazine – Jewish News and Politics, Jewish Arts and Culture, Jewish Life and Religion". tabletmag.com. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  30. ^ "Major Islamic Holidays".
  31. ^ "Eid al-Fitr".
  32. ^ "Eid al-Adha".
  33. ^ "New York Schools Could Get Muslim Holidays".
  34. ^ "Alcohol facts and statistics".
  35. ^ "Top 10 Drunkest Holidays". Time. March 17, 2011.
  36. ^ "Ranking America's drinking holidays". May 4, 2015.
  37. ^ "Juneteenth Celebrated in Coachella". Black Voice News. June 22, 2011. Archived from the original on January 22, 2012.
  38. ^ Juneteenth. Retrieved May 30, 2013. ((cite encyclopedia)): |work= ignored (help)
  39. ^ "Celebrating the Kwanzaa Holiday and Understanding its Impact on Race Relations".
  40. ^ "Why Kwanzaa Video". Maulana Karenga.
  41. ^ McCullar, Emily (July 3, 2020). "Why Texas Still Celebrates Confederate Heroes Day". Texas Monthly. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  42. ^ Little, Becky (January 13, 2017). "The Controversial History of Martin Luther King Day". National Geographic. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  43. ^ Mettler, Katie (January 19, 2016). "Today in Florida, it's Robert E. Lee Day". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  44. ^ "Arkansas Ends Robert E. Lee-Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday". NBC News. March 22, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  45. ^ "Arkansas lawmakers vote to remove Robert E. Lee from holiday honoring MLK". Politico. Associated Press. March 17, 2017. Retrieved April 19, 2017.