Federal Holiday Vs. National Holiday: Analysis Of Holidays

We all look forward to the holidays. It’s a moment to rest and maybe sleep. They also give us a chance to spend with family and friends.

The dictionary defines a holiday as a day set aside by the law or customs where citizens cease daily businesses or work schedules to respect a person or event.

The US has several holidays within a year. Some are national holidays, while some are federal. There is a grey area where some do not know the difference between the two. They are different by definition. This article will highlight that.

Federal Holiday Vs. National Holiday

A federal holiday is when the government closes its offices and allows employees a day off with pay.

On the other hand, a national holiday is a day where the citizens get a day off to acknowledge a person or an event. The US does not have official national days. However, other nations celebrate national holidays.

Federal holidays

It is important to note that federal holidays are mandatory for federal employees. However, other employers are not mandated to give their employees a day off. That is especially true in the US.

Individual state holidays may also affect federal holidays. Certain holidays are held throughout the country. According to the US government, the following are federal holidays.

The first day of the year 

Every year on January 1, a nation or state will commemorate New Year’s Day. Usually, it is the Gregorian Calendar that is acknowledged. Different cultures celebrate New Year’s Day, like the Julian Calendar, but the US recognizes the Gregorian calendar.

Inauguration Day

That is a federal day slated for January 20 after an election year. That means, after every four years, Americans celebrate inauguration day. It is a day reserved to celebrate the start of a new term for a new president.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

That is a holiday designated for every third Monday of January. President Reagan initiated it to celebrate the accomplishment of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is known as Martin Luther’s birthday. It falls just a few days from his actual birthday on January 15.

Washington’s day

That is a federal holiday that is marked every 3rd Monday of February. It was founded in George Washington’s honor, the first president of the United States of America. It is a day to acknowledge the crucial part of the American Revolutionary War.  

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is held every last Monday of May. That is a day set aside to remember and honor those who died while serving in the military. People flock to cemeteries to show their respect.

National Independence Day is celebrated on June 19.

On June 19, Americans celebrate June 19 National Independence Day. It is a day that commemorates the liberation of enslaved people during the 19th century. It wasn’t even recognized as a federal holiday until 2021 when President Joe Biden signed it to law.

Independence Day

Independence day is held every 4th of July with pomp and colors but primarily fireworks. It commemorates the day the US gained its independence from the British. Initially, it included all the thirteen American Colonies under the British monarch.

Labor Day

Every first Monday in September, Labor Day is held. It pays tribute to laborers and labor-supporting movements. It is also a day to recognize the invaluable contribution of the labor force toward the development of the US.

Columbus Day

Every second Monday in October, Columbus Day is commemorated. It is a federal holiday, but other nations also celebrate it in the Americas. It celebrates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World. That is modern-day America.

Veterans Day

Veterans day is celebrated on November 11. It’s held to remember and honor those who served under the armed forces, and we’re freed honorably. It is celebrated in other countries and may be known as Remembrance day and other names.

Thanksgiving Day 

Its held every 4th Thursday of November. It is a day celebrated in the US and [the nations including Canada and Liberia. Other nations give it other names, but they all represent a day of giving thanks for what people have and other blessings.

Christmas Day

That is the only federal holiday with a religious affiliation. It has been a source of controversy about whether or should be acknowledged as a federal holiday. It is celebrated on December 25. Chris’s day is celebrated worldwide as the day Jesus Christ was born.

National Holidays 

As discussed above, the US does not have a national holiday. That means there is no set aside where the population must take the day off with or without pay. The government has, however, given states free reign over holidays. 

These states have other holidays that may or may not be followed by other states. The list is endless and will get addressed in a later article. The US does not have a list as far as national holidays go. 

Nonetheless, other nations celebrate national holidays. Here are some of the national holidays of other countries that are commonly known.

New year in China

The New year in China gets held from January through to early February. It does not have a set day, and it follows the lunar calendar. It is considered a national holiday in China and other nations in Asia, such as Japan and Korea. It ushers in a new Chinese zodiac sign.

Ramadan and eid ul Fitr

These are celebrations centered around the Muslim religion. The Islamic calendar’s ninth month commemorates the month of Ramadan. Muslims observe the month of Ramadan by fasting and praying daily. 

The moon’s appearance influences it. When the fasting period concludes in the tenth month, Eid gets held.


Easter is a day mainly celebrated by Christians in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ. Countries such as Kenya and Ghana fall in this category. However, it is not a Christian affair in other nations. 

For example, Egypt and Ireland refer to it as the beginning of the Spring festival and reference day, respectively.


Diwali is the most important national holiday in India and Hindus in general. It is considered the thanksgiving of Indians. Diwali, usually known as “the festival of lights,” is dedicated to the triumph of good over evil, ignorance, and darkness. 

Over five days, it is commemorated with a series of prayers, decorations, and gifts to friends and family. 

Things To Know About Federal Holiday

There are certain aspects of federal holidays that you should keep in mind.

  • Employers are not mandated to pay employees on a federal holiday. States such as California have no law that requires an employer to pay employees when he closes his business on a public holiday. That is unless the employer has such a policy.
  • The employer is not required to pay an employee extra if they work on a public holiday. Although federal offices pay their employees off day, the government does not force private businesses to do the same. It is at the employer’s discretion. 
  • Payday will be postponed to the following day if it falls on a public holiday. Make sure you have enough money reserves to get you through the weekend of payday falls on a Friday, which is also a federal day.
  • Employers are supposed to make adjustments to accommodate your right to celebrate a religious holiday. States such as California have laws that protect your right to celebrate religious holidays to a certain degree.
  • The US has no national holiday in the formal sense. The federal holidays are as far as they can go. Only federal employees can take the day off with full pay. The government does not mandate the private sector to close their businesses or give employees a day off. Employers have free authority over that. 
  • Most States observe federal holidays, which ensures that most employers offer the day off for employees.
  • Martin Luther King Day is the newest kid on the block as far as federal holidays go. Although it has been honored in the past, it will not get recognized as a national holiday until 2021. It is a day that celebrates King’s accomplishments. 

Remember, these laws may differ for various states. It is uniform, or it is best to check with the state’s policy before you bank on any of these laws. The federal government has some control over how states choose to govern holidays. 


Holidays are standard in most societies and nations. The US acknowledges that and has established it in law. Aside from it is not a national holiday, the government and states recognize most federal laws.

There is a difference between federal holidays and national holidays. However, this doesn’t make much difference to a US citizen. We hope the topic discussed in the article has been an eye-opener and of help to you.

John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor is a seasoned writer with more than 10 years of experience as a professional. He has written professionally for many different organizations, such as The Atlantic and the Boston Globe. John can write on any topic you need him to cover, from business writing to creative nonfiction pieces. His portfolio speaks for his skills; he's not only an experienced writer but also an excellent editor and researcher!


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