The fact that many people refer to federal holidays as “national holidays” often causes some confusion, since there is a key difference between a national holiday and a federal holiday. The “national holiday” tag gives the impression that everyone has the day off, which simply isn’t true. While federal holidays do, in some cases, share a similarity with what a national holiday might look like, they’re not the same thing.
What’s the difference between a national holiday and a federal holiday?
A national holiday would be a day when all workers would get the day off. Federal holidays are days when federal employees get the day off as dictated by law from Congress. The difference is that anyone who runs a business or organization other than the federal government gets to choose whether or not those particular days are holidays for their workers. This is what often causes the confusion about what will and won’t be open when a federal holiday appears on the calendar.
For example, some federal holidays are similar to a national holiday. Christmas is a day when almost everyone gets the day off, and it would be considered for the most part to be a national holiday. There are, however, other federal holidays which aren’t even observed by all state and local governments. A good example of this would be Columbus Day which is a federal holiday, but schools in some states have regular classes, and state and local governments don’t shut down.
What’s important to remember is that there are no designated national holidays in the US, and when workers other than federal employees get the holiday off is up to the employer. For those who are curious, the following dates are federal holidays for 2015:
- January 1, 2015: New Year’s Day
- January 19, 2015: Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday
- February 16, 2015: Washington’s birthday (also known as President’s Day)
- May 15, 2015: Memorial Day
- July 3, 2015: Independence Day (since July 4 lands on a Saturday which is a non-work day, most federal employees get the Friday before off)
- September 7, 2015: Labor Day
- October 12, 2015: Columbus Day
- November 11, 2015: Veteran’s Day
- November 26, 2015: Thanksgiving Day
- December 25, 2015: Christmas Day
(Photo courtesy of Kristal Kraft)