The US federal holidays first came to be in 1885 when congress decided to give workers extra days off during the year. These days mark special occasions, whether of a religious or historical nature. Some are just the time for families to meet while others are marked with festivities such as fireworks and parades.

Currently, the US celebrates 10 federal holidays every year. Some states might observe more holidays than others. Regardless, most institutions close down these days. If you plan to visit the US, you should know which days might not be the best for tourism.

Knowing about these holidays will also help those who wish to work in the US. Though all countries share some international holidays, many are unique. You wouldn’t want to wake up to an alarm clock for nothing!

That certainly won’t happen after you’re done reading. In this article, we’ll tell you about all the US holidays you need to know for this year.

What are the 10 US federal holidays you can look forward to?

The US observes 10 distinct public holidays every year. Also called federal holidays, each state can choose which ones will be observed and which ones won’t.

Most of these federal holidays move to a substitute weekday if they fall on a weekend. This isn’t the case with European public holidays, such as those in France.

Of all the federal holidays, only one is religious. Most of them commemorate key events from the US’s history which goes to show just how much Americans love their country.

New Year’s Day

The entire country celebrates this federal holiday because it marks the beginning of a new year, according to the Gregorian calendar. This holiday falls on the 1st of January every year. It automatically moves to the next Monday if it falls on a weekend.

Much like in the rest of the world, the people of America often stay up till midnight to greet the new year. At midnight, the sky is often covered with fireworks.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

All 50 states celebrate this federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. It falls on the third Monday of January every year.

Born on the 15th of January 1929, this civil right activist is an important historical figure in the US. Before his assassination in 1968, he had maintained a relentless campaign against racial discrimination. This federal holiday came to be following his death.

Many parades and marches take place across the country on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Political leaders and civil rights activists also give speeches on this important day.

George Washington’s Birthday

Also referred to as President’s Day, this federal holiday honors another important figure from American history. It falls on the third Monday of February every year.

Originally dedicated to George Washington, it eventually became the celebration of every US president who’s ever served the US.

Memorial Day

This federal holiday commemorates those who’ve fallen while defending their country. Originally known as Decoration Day, it falls on the last Monday in May every year. Most public institutions close down. However, recreational centers are often busy on Memorial Day.

Juneteenth Day

Also called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, this federal holiday celebrates the abolishment of slavery which took place on June 19, 1865. Joe Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021.

The holiday is celebrated in 19 states and falls on the 19th of June. When it falls on a weekend, it moves to the following Monday instead.

This day is especially important to the Afro-American citizens of the US.

Independence Day

This iconic US federal holiday falls on the fourth of July, which has become interchangeable with Independence Day. US citizens celebrate the day their country gained independence from Great Britain. The majority of institutions don’t operate on this national holiday.

Independence Day always warrants a day off. Should it fall on Saturday, it moves to the Friday before it. And when it falls on Sunday, it automatically moves to the next Monday.

The whole country is busy celebrating Independence Day. Roads are often full of traffic and public transport doesn’t function as it normally does. A typical Independence Day is marked by fireworks, parades, and concerts. Most decorations follow the blue-white-red color palette, based on the country’s flag.

Labor Day

This international holiday falls on the First Monday in September in the US. It is a tribute to workers and employees who contributed to the economic advancement of their country. Americans honor the sacrifices of those laborers who worked to secure a better work environment for their future generations.

Also known as the Long Weekend, this federal holiday is often associated with the end of summer. Most public institutions don’t operate on this day, though some private companies do.

Columbus Day

A federal holiday since 1937, Columbus Day honors the sailor who first landed in America.

Though Christopher Columbus thought he discovered a new way to India, he’s considered the one who discovered the American continent. The holiday falls on the second Monday in October.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a tribute to every soldier who fought for the US. It differs from Memorial Day, which celebrates those who fought while defending their country. It falls on the 11th of November every year.

Thanksgiving Day

Together with Independence Day, this is one of the most well-known US federal holidays in the world. It falls on the fourth Thursday in November. Initially meant to celebrate the harvest, it’s become the day on which Americans express their gratitude for all the good in their lives.

Most public institutions close on this day. Much like on Christmas Day, families gather together and show their appreciation for each other. The most typical Thanksgiving meal is a stuffed Turkey. Other common dishes are made from autumn crops such as pumpkins and cranberries.

Christmas Day

And last but not least, we have the worldwide Christmas Day. This Christian holiday celebrates the birth of baby Jesus. This celebration came to be during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 336.

Though for some people it still holds religious connotations, many simply treat it as an opportunity to spend time with their families. Typical American Christmas dishes vary from one house to another.

Most institutions don’t operate on this day. However, the spirit of generosity can be felt everywhere. Many companies give their employees a holiday with pay on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Christmas Day is preceded by weeks of intense decorating. Apart from Christmas trees, many Americans decorate their yards with sleighs, reindeer, and Christmas lights.

FAQ about the US federal holidays

What is a federal holiday?

Federal agencies, banks, and many businesses are closed on days that the US government has declared to be holidays. All levels of government traditionally observe these holidays, which are meant to honor significant moments or figures in American history.

How many federal holidays are there in the US?

New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day are among the ten federal holidays observed in the US.

Who gets the day off on federal holidays?

On federal holidays, the majority of federal workers receive a day off. Even yet, not all workers in the private sector are given the day off, and some sectors, like healthcare and emergency services, are required to be open.

What happens if you have to work on a federal holiday?

Depending on your employer’s policy and the nature of your work, you might be eligible to premium pay or make-up time off if you have to work on a federal holiday.

Are federal holidays paid holidays?

Employees working in the private sector are not always paid holidays on federal holidays. Your employer’s policy will determine whether or not you are compensated for a federal holiday.

Who decides which days are federal holidays?

The US Congress determines which days are observed as federal holidays and has the authority to enact new federal holidays or repeal old ones.

What is the history behind federal holidays in the US?

Numerous federal holidays are significant in American history and culture. For instance, Memorial Day remembers the men and women who have died while serving in the US military, while Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorates the civil rights activist’s life and legacy.

Do all states celebrate federal holidays?

All states observe federal holidays, although some also observe other holidays, such as days commemorating regional historical people or festivals peculiar to the state.

Can businesses choose to stay open on federal holidays?

On federal holidays, businesses are typically permitted to remain open, however many opt to close in respect of the holiday. Employees who work on federal holidays may receive holiday pay or other rewards from some companies.

Are federal holidays observed on weekends?

Federal holidays are celebrated on weekdays, therefore if a holiday falls on a Saturday, it is often celebrated on the Friday before, and if it happens on a Sunday, it is usually celebrated on the Monday after.

Our final thoughts on the US federal holidays

The US observes up to 11 federal holidays every year, 10 of which are celebrated across the whole country. Americans are a very patriotic nation and most of these holidays commemorate important events from US history.

Knowing the dates of these holidays can help you better adapt to the American workplace. But even if you just travel to the US for a vacation, it’s a good idea to know when most of the stores don’t operate. From a business standpoint, this knowledge can help you build a more reliable yearly financial plan.

If you liked this article about public holidays in Australia, you should check out this one on how many working days are in a year.

You should also check out these other articles of ours about public holidays in France, UK bank holidays, Australian holidays, Canadian holidays, New Zealand holidays, and also public holidays in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.


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