The History and Importance of Federal Holidays

As President’s Day passes, you might start looking forward to the next federal holiday so that you do not need to go into work. We all need a break sometimes, and these holidays spread throughout the year often come at just the right time.

While you are waiting for the next federal holiday to get a break, you can learn about the history of these awesome days.

Which Holidays are Federal Holidays?

There are currently ten holidays recognized nationally. Some of the biggest holidays we celebrate today became holidays as a group early in our history: New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Independence Day were the first national holidays. Thanksgiving and President’s Day were added around the same time.

With the big five out of the way, what are the remaining half?

Labor Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day are another group that are easy to remember since they each recognize the average person’s contribution to the United States. Each worker can celebrate Labor Day happily, while Veterans Day and Memorial Day are meant to remember our soldiers and veterans.

Finally, the last group of holidays are a couple that recognize individuals and their contribution to our history: Columbus Day, or Native Americans Day depending on where you live, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Now you can learn all about when and why we celebrate these days.

History of Post Office Holidays

The history of federal holidays is long and shifting, as many of the federal holidays we recognize today were added, removed, or changed to a different day.

Holidays Added in the 1800s

In Washington D.C., New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Independence Day were recognized in 1870 and became the first official holidays of the country.

Starting in the late 1880s, the United States began observing federal holidays. Originally, there were five federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Christmas, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and George Washington’s birthday – which became known as President’s Day.

A few years later, the government added Memorial Day, though it was originally known as Decoration Day. The next federal holiday to be recognized was Labor Day. The House Labor Committee decided that the purpose of national holidays was to give the people “a day of rest and recreation” in honor of specific events.

Adding Holidays in the 20th Century

After adding Labor Day to the growing list of holidays, Congress refrained from adding more until 1938. Congress introduced Armistice Day, which later became known as Veterans Day to honor the military.

In 1968, Congress began reorganizing how holidays looked on our calendars. While holidays had previously been on different days of the week, Congress moved many holidays to Mondays, so that the people had more time to celebrate – and took less time off of work. This year, Columbus Day became a celebrated holiday.

Finally in 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was formally added to the list of national holidays. It took four years for this day to become officially recognized as a holiday, requiring the bill to be reintroduced to Congress each year. This holiday began as a contentious addition. Some states and cities refused to celebrate the holiday at first, but it has since become a nationally celebrated day.

How Do Dates Become National Holidays?

Do you have a favorite figure in history or a religious holiday that you think should be included as a national holiday? Have you ever thought about trying to figure out a way to make that happen?

In order for a holiday to become nationally recognized, a bill must be presented to Congress, and then it must pass just like any other type of law. Federal holidays are frequently proposed in Congress, though only eleven have become legally recognized holidays.

There are several reasons why a holiday may become legally recognized on the national level. Occasionally, Congress has created federal holidays because a majority of states have already created that holiday, making it seem reasonable that it should be a national holiday.

In other cases, holidays are created to honor a different part of American heritage or American history. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. Day encourages us to remember the Civil Rights Movement and reflect on the racial history of this nation.

If you are interested in trying to create a new federal holiday, reach out to your representatives – or start gathering interest locally first.

Happy Celebrating from Us to You

Throughout the year, these ten days give us much-needed breaks. Whether these days become family days or weekend getaways, they are excellent reasons for both.

However you choose to celebrate your well-deserved day off from work, we hope you have a blast. Enjoy the day and take a moment to remember why each of these days is so special to each of us as Americans.