Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
U.S. federal holidays are national holidays designated by the government to commemorate significant events or individuals in American history. They are different than religious holidays, state holidays, local holidays and observance holidays because they require recognition by the United States Congress.
These holidays serve as a time for national unity and celebrations by American families. Federal law requires that all non-essential federal offices close on these days and many private companies give their employees paid time off as well.
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What Qualifies as U.S. Federal Holidays?
In the United States, a federal holiday is one named in Title V of the United States Code 6103 and recognized by the U.S. Congress. On these dates, federal government employees are entitled to paid time off.
The first federal holidays were created in 1870 by Congress. They designated New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as paid days off for U.S. Government employees in the District of Columbia.
2024 Federal Holiday Calendar
Annual U.S. Federal Holidays Schedule
New Year’s Day – New Year’s Day has been celebrated since the Gregorian calendar’s adoption in 1752. It marks the beginning of the year and is a day to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the one ahead.
Martin Luther King Jr Day – Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an annual holiday that has been officially observed since 1986. It was originally created to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., who played a pivotal role in the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. His work focused on achieving racial equality and justice for all, and this holiday serves as a reminder of his enduring legacy.
Inauguration Day – January 20th (or 21st) – Inauguration Day is celebrated every fourth year after a presidential election on the day a new or reelected U.S. It is celebrated on the 21st if the 20th falls on a Sunday. It is the day the new President is sworn into office. It is celebrated as a peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next.
President’s Day – Presidents’ Day, also known as Washington’s Birthday, was established in 1885 and is celebrated on the third Monday in February. This federal holiday honors the birthdays of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President. It’s a day to recognize and appreciate the contributions of these two iconic leaders to the nation.
Memorial Day – Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, has been observed since the aftermath of the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. It is celebrated on the last Monday in May and it is dedicated to remembering and honoring the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It’s a time for solemn reflection and a day when many communities hold parades, ceremonies, and decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.
Juneteenth – Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery, became a federal holiday in the United States in 2021 through an executive order signed by President Joe Biden.
Independence Day – Independence Day on the fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, marking the United States’ freedom from British colonial rule. It’s a day of patriotic celebration with fireworks, parades, barbecues, and other festivities.
Labor Day – Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894. It serves as a tribute to the American labor movement and the contributions of workers to the development and achievements of the United States. It’s also considered the unofficial end of summer, with many people taking a final vacation or enjoying outdoor activities.
Columbus Day – Columbus Day, officially recognized since 1937, is observed on the second Monday in October. It recognizes the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. While it’s a federal holiday, it is also a day of controversy and debate, as it raises questions about the impact of European colonization on Indigenous peoples.
Veterans Day – Veterans Day has been observed since the end of World War I and became a federal holiday in 1938. It is a day to honor and express gratitude to all military veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I and is a time for parades, ceremonies, and other events that pay tribute to veterans’ sacrifices.
Thanksgiving Day – November 28, 2024 Thanksgiving Day has deep historical roots dating back to the early 17th century, when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans came together for a feast. It became an official federal holiday in 1863 and is a time for families and friends to come together and give thanks for the bountiful harvest and blessings of the past year.
Christmas Day – December 25, 2024 Christmas has been celebrated in the United States since the early 17th century and marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Many Americans exchange gifts, decorate their homes, and participate in various festive activities during this holiday season.
Federal Holiday FAQ
What Federal Employees Have Federal Holidays Off
On Feder, non-essential government personnel enjoy time off, and the majority of government establishments, including post offices and federal reserve banks, remain closed.
What Federal Holidays Are Always On Mondays?
What happens when a Federal Holiday Falls on the Weekend?
When “Non-Monday” federal holiday lands on the weekend, it is observed on the following Monday by the federal government, banks, local governments and some private businesses.
What Holidays Are Not Federal Holidays?
Some holidays are religious holidays (like Good Friday) and others are observance or cultural holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
Do Any Federal Employees Work on Federal Holidays?
Yes, some federal employees like law enforcement are required to work holidays if their work schedule is considered essential or are needed for public safety. However, they are usually given a “replacement holiday” or alternative day off in lieu of the Monday holiday.
Are Businesses Required to Give Paid Time Off on Federal Holidays?
Federal workers are entitled to paid time off on Federal holidays. However, there are no federal laws that require that a private-sector employer give employees time off or a paid day off. Rhode Island and Massachusetts do have state laws that affect private employers.
It’s important to note that federal holidays are typically observed by federal employees, and the stock and bond markets are often closed. However, many businesses and organizations also choose to give their employees the day off or offer holiday pay, so most Americans can enjoy these special days with their loved ones.
In addition to these federal holidays, individual states and local communities may observe additional holidays or have unique traditions. Some states, for instance, celebrate holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day with specific events and activities that highlight local contributions to civil rights and military service.
Federal holidays are not just days off from work and school; they hold significant historical and cultural value. They provide opportunities for Americans to come together, reflect on their nation’s history, and celebrate the ideals and principles that make the United States a diverse and vibrant democracy.
As you plan your year in 2024, consider how you can take advantage of these federal holidays to spend time with family, engage in acts of service, and participate in community events. These holidays not only provide a break from your daily routine but also offer opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a part of this great nation and how you can contribute to its ongoing legacy. Whether you choose to celebrate with parades, ceremonies, or a simple family gathering, these federal holidays are a chance to connect with the rich history and culture of the United States.