Nothing is more relaxing and refreshing than a day off that’s spent well. The one thing common between unlimited time off policies and more traditional leave policies is federal holidays. Whether it is a day off for Christmas or the 4th of July, eagerly employees look forward to these paid days off.

Although federal holidays are traditionally only granted to federal employees, private businesses also provide time off for some of them. When making the leave calendar for the year, HR departments refer to the federal holiday calendar for that year (here is the federal holiday calendar for 2021) to determine which holidays need to be granted and on what day they fall.

In this blog, we’ll take you through what a federal holiday is, whether businesses must grant them, and the federal holidays for 2023.

What are Federal Holidays?

Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) observes 10 public holidays recognized by the federal government. On these days, federal employees receive paid time off. While Congress only has the authority to designate these as holidays for federal institutions, many private businesses and states also grant these as paid time off for their employees. 

The List of US Federal Holidays in 2023

Here is a guide to federal holidays for 2023 in the United States:

  • New Year’s Day: Sunday, January 1, 2023 (observed on Monday, January 2)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Monday, January 16, 2023
  • Presidents’ Day: Monday, February 20, 2023
  • Memorial Day: Monday, May 29, 2023
  • Independence Day: Tuesday, July 4, 2023
  • Labor Day: Monday, September 4, 2023
  • Columbus Day: Monday, October 9, 2023
  • Veterans Day: Saturday, November 11, 2023 (observed on Friday, November 10)
  • Thanksgiving Day: Thursday, November 23, 2023
  • Christmas Day: Monday, December 25, 2023

Can there be Additional Federal Holidays? 

While some factions advocate for the recognition of additional federal holidays, the government currently recognizes only these 10 federally recognized holidays. But states may observe additional holidays not listed here, so be sure to look at state holidays observed by the states your business functions in for a complete picture. 

What is the Significance of Each Federal Holiday? 

The significance of each of these observances has a long and colorful history. The Congressional Research Service goes into great detail about the history of each of these 10 federal holidays. 

But if we were to summarize the importance of each of these days: 

  • New Year’s Day: Celebrates the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Honors the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who worked to end racial segregation and discrimination.
  • Presidents’ Day: Originally established to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, it has been expanded to honor all past U.S. presidents.
  • Memorial Day: Honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
  • Independence Day: Celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared the 13 American colonies independent from Great Britain.
  • Labor Day: Celebrates the contributions and achievements of American workers.
  • Columbus Day: Commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492.
  • Veterans Day: Honors all American veterans, who have served in the U.S. military.
  • Thanksgiving Day: Celebrates the harvest and blessings of the past year and gives thanks for them.
  • Christmas Day: Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Are all Businesses Closed on Federal Holidays? 

No, not all businesses and organizations close on federal holidays. Private businesses and organizations can choose whether or not to close on federal holidays, and state and local governments may observe different holidays.

Do Federal Holidays Always Fall on the Same Day Each Year?

The reason why the federal holidays of 2023 are different from the federal holidays of the previous years is that there are two kinds of federal holidays:

  • Fixed Federal Holidays: These are the federal holidays that fall on the same date every year. For example, people always observe Christmas Day on December 25.
  • Floating Federal Holidays: These are the federal holidays that fall on the same day and month each year. For example, people always observe MLK Day on the third Monday of every January.

Are Federal Holidays Paid Time Off? 

Federal employees always receive paid time off for federal holidays. Private companies wishing to give time off to employees on these days should also grant paid time off. 

What Happens When a Federal Holiday falls on a Weekend?  

If a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, federal employees usually observe the holiday on the preceding Friday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, federal employees usually observe the holiday on the following Monday.

Private businesses may choose to keep the dates fixed, irrespective of whether it falls on a weekend. 

Proposed Federal Holiday for Native Americans Day

Proposed Federal Holidays

Over the years, bipartisan support has been lacking for quite a few proposed federal holidays, causing them to fail:

  • Susan B. Anthony Day: The holiday was proposed by Carolyn Maloney in H.R. 655 on February 11, 2011.
  • Cesar Chavez Day: The holiday was proposed by Representative Joe Baca in H.R. 76 and was further endorsed by President Barack Obama.
  • Malcolm X Day: The holiday was proposed in H.R. 323 in 1993 and 1994 by Congressman Charles Rangel.
  • Flag Day: Proposed to be a federal holidays several times but failed. It finally became a national observance when President Harry Truman signed it into law.
  • Native Americans’ Day: The holiday was petitioned for and introduced in Congress multiple times but was unsuccessful. 
  • Election Day / Democracy Day: Multiple movements for this holiday to be official have occurred, but have failed. Many states have made it a public holiday instead. 
  • Rosa Parks Day: Proposed as part of HR 5111 on September 3, 2021.

It’s important to note that the process of establishing a new federal holiday is a complex one that typically involves a legislative process, which can take several years or longer to complete. The approval of both houses of Congress and the signature of the President are necessary to pass any proposed federal holiday into law.