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A holiday is a special day which may include celebrating, or simply staying home instead of working. The word is derived from the word holy. Most cultures have some holidays to help with the well being and positive attitude of their populace, often based on the culture's predominant religion or a significant event in its history.

In the United States, some holidays are permanently set on a specific day of a specific week in a month (for example, Labor Day is always observed on the first Monday of September), while some are set of specific dates (for example, Independence Day is always observed on July 4, subject to rules below when that date falls on a Saturday or a Sunday).

State and local governments are not required to observe Federal holidays, but many do observe all or most of them as holidays (for example, Texas observes all Federal holidays except Columbus Day). In addition, they also may observe holidays with special local or statewide significance (for example, Texas observes April 21 as a "partial staffing holiday"; April 21 is San Jacinto Day, the day on which Texas won its independence over Mexico) as well as religious holidays (Texas allows the following days to be "optional holidays" in lieu of "partial staffing holidays: Good Friday, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah).[1]

While banks are required to observe Federal holidays (and the stock market is closed on all but two of them), private businesses are not required to do so, and (outside of the more notable days) may open to capture business from people doing errands on a day off.

Federal Holidays

The following holidays are observed by the United States Government as official paid holidays for Federal employees under 5 USC 6103:[2]

In addition the following days are, at times, Federal holidays:

Under Federal law and regulation, generally regardless of a full-time employee's schedule, an employee receives only eight hours holiday pay (or four, if only half a day is declared). So if an employee works a 9-hour or 10-hour shift, s/he must either work the remaining hours, or use another form of leave to cover them. Part-time employees paid holiday pay only if they are scheduled to work on that day of the week.

Several new Federal holidays have been proposed, by members of both political parties, including:

  • Rosa Parks Day[13]
  • September 11 Day[14]
  • Election Day[15] (this is a holiday in many countries, some states, and in some union contracts it is either a full day off, or employees are given time off to go vote)
  • Diwali (Hindu New Year)[16]
  • Lunar (Chinese) New Year[17]
  • Harriet Tubman Day[18]
  • Gold Star Families Day[19]

Other Holidays

Some of these holidays may be observed by states and local governments, and/or private businesses, while others have become more of a festival and not an actual holiday:


  1. In Texas, a "partial staffing day" is a day on which state offices must be open, though with limited staff; an employee may take that day as a holiday or one of the "optional holidays" instead.
  2. If a holiday is set for a specific date (such as New Year's Day, which is set for January 1), if that date falls on a Saturday then the holiday is observed on the preceding Friday; if it falls on a Sunday then the holiday is observed on the following Monday. This rule does not apply to Federal workers who regularly work on Saturdays and/or Sundays; in those instances they observe the actual date, or an alternate date if their work requires round-the-clock staffing such as prison guards or nurses.
  3. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than January 15 -- Dr. King's actual birth date -- nor later than January 21.
  4. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than February 15 nor later than February 21. It further means that it never falls on February 22, which is his actual birth date. Also, though it is often called "President's Day" (to recognize all officeholders, specifically Lincoln who's birth date was February 12), that is not the official title.
  5. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than May 25 nor later than May 31.
  6. This is the newest Federal holiday, added in 2021. It observes the formal announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865, the last state to receive the announcement. The holiday grew out of popular celebrations among Blacks in the American South.
  7. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than September 1 nor later than September 7.
  8. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than October 8 nor later than October 14. It is one of only two Federal holidays on which stock market trading is permitted.
  9. Originally titled Armistice Day, for the end of World War I (which took effect on November 11, at 11:11 AM). For a time it was changed to the last Monday in October, but due to the significance of November 11 it was changed back to that specific date. It is one of only two Federal holidays on which stock market trading is permitted.
  10. This means that the observed date will be no earlier than November 22 nor later than November 28. It is the only Federal holiday set on a specific day of the month which is not a Monday; the following Friday is not a Federal holiday but often sees reduced staffing as employees use leave to create a four-day weekend.
  11. This is only observed as a paid holiday when a President is inaugurated (in the years following years divisible by four) and then only in the Washington, DC metropolitan area (which is specifically defined as the District of Columbia, the counties of Montgomery and Prince George's in Maryland, the counties of Arlington and Fairfax and the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church in Virginia); it is not a paid holiday elsewhere.
  12. This is only observed whenever it is declared such by the President; it has been haphazardly observed (some years not, other years the entire day, while other years only the latter half of the day). When observed it will follow the rules of holidays on a specific date.