I heard on the news the other day that the 4th of July is
not a national holiday and that we do not, in fact, have any national holidays
in the United States. What the heck does that mean?
you heard is true. There is no such thing as a “national” holiday in the United
States of America and that is just how the founding fathers wanted it. Congress
has no authority to establish holidays that the 50 states are required to
observe, they can merely name “federal” holidays (meaning a day off) for employees
of the federal government and the District of Columbia.
is up to the individual states to determine their own holidays. Many follow the
lead of the federal government. In fact, all 50 states do recognize
Independence Day as an official holiday and most private sector employers
follow suit and give the day off to their non-essential employees. So, it seems
like a national holiday even though it technically isn’t.
are also free to invent their own holidays. Hawaii celebrates King
Kamehameha Day on June 11 to recognize the leader who united the separate
islands. Schoolchildren in Illinois get the first Monday in March off to
honor Casmir Pulaski, a Polish hero of the American Revolution who never set
foot in the state. Utah recognizes the arrival of Brigham Young and the other
Mormons fleeing religious persecution on July 24, 1847 with Pioneer Day.
local governments even establish their own special holidays. Hence, Evacuation
Day in Boston, which is theoretically a commemoration of some historical event
but since it occurs on the day after St. Patrick’s Day is thought of by most as
4th of July as a holiday began before there even was a nation or federal
government to speak of. Philadelphia recognized the first anniversary of the
signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1777 with parades, fireworks, and
other activities we still associate with the day. It was first recognized as an
official holiday by Massachusetts, before the Revolutionary War had ended.
Congress didn’t make Independence Day a federal holiday until 1870 – but it was
a day without pay until 1938 when Congress decided to throw federal employees a
bone and make it a paid holiday. They also established that if the 4th falls on
a Saturday, the day will be observed on Friday for workers on a Mon-Fri
schedule and if it falls on a Sunday, it will be observed on Monday.