Federal Holidays: When and What Are They

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You probably know some of the most common federal holidays. But, do you know why we celebrate them?

Are you familiar with when these national holidays occur? And are you wondering if stores, businesses, banks and more are allowed to be open on federal holidays?

Well, after writing my article on stores closed on national holidays, I decided to research the flipside and put together this article on the what, when and why of federal holidays in the United States. 

In addition, I’m covering popular state holidays that might seem like they’re federal celebrations. For example, Patriot’s Day aka Patriots’ Day. It’s a New England-specific holiday, which I explain below. 

However, if you live in New England, Patriot’s Day/Patriots’ Day feels like a national holiday. Why? Because many things are closed, including schools.

Finally, I’ll try to answer the most common questions about federal holidays. I know I learned a few things myself in writing this article.

How many federal holidays are there in a year?

As of 2023 there are 11 federal holidays. Up until 2020, there were only 10 federal holidays.

What changed? Juneteenth became a national holiday in 2021. 

That’s when President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and is celebrated on June 19.

juneteenth federal holiday

What are the 11 federal holidays

Here is a chronological list of the 11 federal holidays. Plus, the dates they are celebrated. 

  1. New Year’s Day January 1
  2. Martin Luther King’s Birthday 3rd Monday in January
  3. Washington’s Birthday 3rd Monday in February
  4. Memorial Day last Monday in May
  5. Juneteenth National Independence Day June 19
  6. Independence Day July 4
  7. Labor Day 1st Monday in September
  8. Columbus Day 2nd Monday in October
  9. Veterans’ Day November 11
  10. Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November
  11. Christmas Day December 25

What months have federal holidays

Only eight months out of the year have national US federal holidays in them. And only two months have more than one federal holiday in the. They are January and November.

Nonetheless, here is a month-by-month list.

January Holidays

New Year’s Day January 1

Martin Luther King’s Birthday 3rd Monday in January

February Holiday

Washington’s Birthday 3rd Monday in February

March Holidays

None

April Holidays

None

May Holiday

Memorial Day last Monday in May

June Holiday

Juneteenth National Independence Day June 19

July Holiday

Independence Day July 4

August Holidays

None

September Holiday

Labor Day 1st Monday in September

October Holiday

Columbus Day 2nd Monday in October (Started in 1971; many states have renamed it Indigenous Peoples Day)

November Holidays

Veterans’ Day November 11

Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November

December Holiday

Christmas Day December 25

Why are banks closed on federal holidays

Banks often follow the New York Stock Exchange when deciding to be open or closed. Of course, many of these closures coincide with federal holidays.

However, the NYSE recognizes additional holidays that the federal government does not. Similarly, there are federal holidays that the NYSE does not close for. This includes Columbus Day and Veterans Day.

So, what are the bank holidays and stock exchange holidays each year? 

  • New Year’s Day January 1
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday 3rd Monday in January
  • Washington’s Birthday 3rd Monday in February
  • Good Friday (dates vary based on when Easter falls)
  • Memorial Day last Monday in May
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day June 19
  • Independence Day July 4
  • Labor Day 1st Monday in September
  • Thanksgiving Day 4th Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day December 25

Federal holidays on weekends

If you work for a company that gives you off for a federal holiday–and that holiday falls on a weekend–don’t worry. You should still get a day off, although that’s not a guarantee.

However, if you’re a federal or state employee, that’s another thing. That’s because the government has rules about what happens when a national holiday falls on the weekend. 

From the Office of Personnel Management:

“If a holiday falls on a Saturday, the Friday immediately before is the legal holiday. If a holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is the legal holiday.”

Office of Personnel Management

That’s why, in 2022, with Christmas falling on a Sunday, banks and the post office were closed on Monday, December 26th. That was the federal holiday observance of Christmas 2022.

On the other hand, with New Year’s Day falling the following Sunday, the official New Year’s Day observance aka the national holiday for 2023 was Monday, January 2nd. So, no mail, no banks and likely no school.

Are stores required to be closed on federal holidays

stores closed on national holidays costco sign

Whether or not stores and businesses have to close on a federal holiday is actually determined at the state level. In many instances these rules harken back to Blue Laws.

In case you didn’t know, Blue Laws prevented people from shopping on Sundays. The Puritans created these laws.

As far as I can tell, very few American states still have Blue Laws that coincide with federal holidays. Massachusetts has a few. 

In Maine, stores bigger than 5,000 square feet may not be open on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.

Finally, here is a list of which stores are open or closed on national holidays.

State holidays vs federal holidays

In some states, there are statewide holidays that feel like they are federal or national holidays. Why?

Because everything is closed. These are known as legal holidays

Sometimes these state holidays affect national business. 

For example, Emancipation Day in Washington D.C. often falls on or close to Tax Day aka April 15th. So, you may have noticed that some years your taxes are due a few days after April 15, even though April 15 falls on a weekday.

taxes done

Well, you have Emancipation Day to thank for this tax extension. Because the IRS is located in the District of Columbia and DC celebrates this holiday, the IRS is closed. 

In addition, New Englander residents celebrate Patriot’s Day or Patriots’ Day. This holiday commemorates the Revolutionary Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.

Patriot’s Day is always the third Monday in April. It’s also the day when the Boston Marathon is held.

Even though it celebrates a Massachusetts event, all six New England states observe it in one way or another. In case you didn’t know, the six New England states are:

  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

Another example would be the legal holidays in Maryland. There are three additional legal holidays in Maryland that don’t sync up with federal holidays.

They are: 

  • Maryland Day on March 25
  • Defenders Day on September 12
  • American Indian Heritage Day on the fourth Friday in November aka the day after Thanksgiving aka Black Friday.

Also, in Wisconsin Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are legal holidays in the state.

Deliveries on federal holidays

You can expect that the United States Postal Service will not be making deliveries on federal holidays. However, that’s not a given with private delivery services.

For example, FedEx delivers on some federal holidays. This PDF I grabbed from FedEx shows which holidays FedEx is open and which ones it is not.

fedex truck

Also, UPS is for sure closed on four federal holidays. They are New Year’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Here are holiday shipping deadlines to keep in mind.

Amazon federal holidays

amazon delivery van

On the other hand, it may be possible to receive shipments from Amazon on federal holidays. I found info about paid holidays for Amazon employees 

However, it doesn’t say if those that drive Amazon vans get these seven holidays off as well. I’ll keep an eye out if I get anything from Amazon on one of these federal holidays; you do them same:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Federal holiday: yes or no

Many people have questions about whether certain days on the calendar near legit federal holidays are actually a holiday, too. So, here I’ve outlined some of the most common queries and provided an answer.

9/11

While 9/11 is known as Patriot Day (singular) in some circles, there are two things you need to know. One, it is not the same as the New England holiday Patriot’s Day/Patriots’ Day. And, two, as of right now it is not a federal holiday.

Halloween

It would be fun to call Halloween a national holiday. However, it is not.

On the other hand, the next day, All Saints’ Day, is considered a Catholic holiday. So, if your children attend a Catholic school, they may not have school but would still be expected to attend Mass.

December 24 or Christmas Eve

Some states have determined that Christmas Eve is a legal holiday. For instance, I mentioned earlier that in Wisconsin, it is a state holiday. 

Turns out there are other states that recognize Christmas Eve as a legal holiday. This includes Michigan, Texas and North Carolina, among others.

If you happen to live in a state that has designated Christmas Eve as a state holiday, please post a comment and let me know.

Patriots’ Day

As I mentioned earlier, Patriots’ Day and Patriot’s Day are state holidays in New England. Specifically, Maine and Massachusetts recognize it as a day off more so than other New England states.

St. Patrick’s Day

Not only is St. Patrick’s Day not a legal holiday on the local, state or federal level, but get this: St. Patrick’s Day isn’t even technically an official U.S. holiday. 

I guess we Americans just like celebrating it so much. Also, it probably helps that about 10% of the population identifies as Irish. In fact, I was excited to see Irish show up in my Ancestry DNA makeup.

Tips for shopping after St. Patrick’s Day sales.

Diwali

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. It is celebrated in the fall.

While not a legal holiday on the federal level, many school districts have started adding Diwali to the school calendar as a day off. This includes the New York City public schools as well as school districts in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur

Known as the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur occur in the early fall. It is not an official holiday. However, Jewish-owned businesses are likely to close for it, and many school districts recognize it as a school holiday, too.

Day after Thanksgiving

In our house, the day after Thanksgiving is a shopping holiday. That’s because it’s Black Friday.

However, in some municipalities, it is a legit holiday, with municipal offices closed.

Columbus Day

Columbus Day is one of the 11 federally recognized legal holidays.

Ash Wednesday

The start of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday is not an official holiday in the United States. However, if you’re a practicing Catholic or another Christian denomination, you’ll likely make time to attend church services.

Good Friday

To the New York Stock Exchange, Good Friday or the Friday before Easter is a legal holiday. The stock exchange is closed and, very likely, so are banks and financial institutions.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is one of the 11 federally designated legal holidays.

Passover

Passover often coincides with Easter, which is a federal holiday. So it’s possible that you may celebrate Passover on a federal holiday, even though it’s not a legal holiday itself.

Finally, if Passover and Easter are around the same time, you can expect that your children will likely be on spring break. So schools will be closed.

Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year

In 2016 New York City school finally made Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year an official school holiday. Also, in 2022, Congress introduced a bill to make Lunar New Year the 12th federal holiday.

However, I’m not sure it ever progressed federally. On the other hand, in 2022, California designated Lunar New Year as a state holiday.

Goldbelly has tons of delicious Lunar New Year dishes.

Chanukah

Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, is not a legal holiday.

Inauguration Day

A new president is inaugurated every four years on January 20th. And every four years, residents of the District of Columbia aka Washington DC, have the day off. 

That’s because Inauguration Day is a designated holiday for federal employees.

Election Day

Election Day is held the first Tuesday in November, after the first Monday in November. In other words, if Tuesday is the very first day of November, then Election Day is the next Tuesday.

Anyway, some legislators have been trying for years to make Election Day a federal holiday. That way many people who have off from work and it would be easier for people to vote. 

However, not all legislators agree about this designation. So it’s just a “regular” day. On the other hand, some school districts are polling places. And if that’s the case, school is usually canceled.

Presidents Day

Celebrating both Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday, President’s Day is indeed a legal holiday.

Final thoughts on federal holidays

Have I missed any important distinctions when it comes to federal, national or legal holidays? If so, please post a comment and let me know.

Also, if you represent a national retailer that is not open on legal holidays–and I don’t have you in my article about stores closed on national holidays–please get in touch, too.

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