(ABC4) – The United States has established 12 permanent federal holidays. These are listed as New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Inauguration Day (every four years), Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The most recent holiday to be recognized federally is Juneteenth National Independence Day. The holiday was signed into legislation by President Joe Biden in June 2021.
Federal Holidays started in 1870 when congress passed the first federal holiday law, which meant federal employees would get paid time off for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day was added to the list of observed holidays in January 1879. What started as being celebrated on February 22 every year, the date then got changed in 1968 to the third Monday in February each year. This change was enacted by the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”.
Decoration Day or Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1888. Many federal workers wanted to participate in a day honoring those who died in the Civil War. The holiday was celebrated on May 30 each year until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act went into place in 1968, which changed Memorial Day to the last Monday in May each year.
Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894. 23 states had already recognized Labor Day as a holiday before it was enacted. The holiday was a day to recognize the labor of the common worker and to give the average worker a day of relaxation and a day of enjoyment. The holiday is celebrated the first Monday of September each year.
Armistice Day or Veterans Day became a federal holiday in 1938. The holiday was chosen as way to commemorate the close of World War I. By 1954, the nation had gone through World War II and the Korean War. Instead of creating a holiday for each of these wars, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day to celebrate all American Veterans.
Veterans Day was previously celebrated each year on November 11 but changed in 1968 to the fourth Monday in October each year.
Inauguration Day became a federal holiday in 1957. The law was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The holiday only occurs every four years when a new President is inaugurated.
Columbus Day was made a federal holiday in 1968. The holiday was already observed in 45 states which helped the push to make it into a federal holiday. However, since 1990, many states have chosen to recognize the holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day instead.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In 1983, President Ronald Regan created a federal holiday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Proposals for the holiday started in 1968 after King’s assassination. The third Monday in January each year is now recognized in his honor.
Juneteenth National Independence Day
The first federal holiday to be signed in the 21st century. Juneteenth National Independence Day marks the June 19, 1865 emancipation proclamation in Texas, which freed enslaved people in all confederate states.