We have so many reasons to celebrate the amazing country in which we live! What are frequently referred to as “American Holidays” are actually the 11 Federal Holidays which have been established by Congress. The links below will take you to an individual page for each holiday. Do you have information or pictures about these holidays? Please send them to me via the contacts page!
George Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day)
A Summary of our Federal Holidays from Stephen W. Stathis (1999)Federal Holiday: Evolution and Application. CRS Report for Congress:
“By law, Congress has established 11 permanent federal holidays. Although frequently called “national holidays,” these patriotic celebrations are only applicable
to federal employees and the District of Columbia, the states individually decide their own legal holidays.
Congress, in several instances, created federal holidays after a sizable number of states had taken such action. In others, Congress took the lead. Each action
emphasizes particular aspects of the American heritage that molded the United States as a people and a nation.
The first five congressionally designated federal holidays were New Year’s Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and
Christmas Day. Approved in the 1870s, they were applicable only to federal employees in the District of Columbia. In 1885, Congress began to extend holiday
coverage to federal employees outside Washington.
Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) and Labor Day became federal holidays in 1888 and 1894, respectively. The first allowed Civil War veterans in federal
employ to pay their respects to those who gave their lives in the conflict, without losing a day’s pay. The second was designed to honor American labor and foster the feeling of brotherhood among the different crafts.
Congress created the Armistice Day holiday in 1938 to mark the close of World War I hostilities. In 1954, the scope of this holiday was broadened to honor
Americans who fought in World War II and the Korean conflict, and the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day.
Although Thanksgiving Day was included in the first holiday bill of 1870, it was not until 1941 that Congress specifically designated the fourth Thursday of
November as the official date. A quarter of a century later, Congress made Inauguration Day a permanent holiday in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,
eliminating the necessity of acting upon this matter for each inauguration.
The Monday Holiday Law of 1968 shifted Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day from their traditional dates to Mondays, and established an
additional holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus. Observing these holidays on Mondays, it was felt, would substantially benefit the nation’s spiritual and economic life. By commemorating Christopher Columbus’s remarkable voyage, the nation honored the courage and determination of generation after generation of immigrants seeking freedom and opportunity in America.
Creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday in 1983 culminated a 15-year movement to establish a celebration commemorating Dr. King’s contributions to the
civil rights movement in the United States.