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Public holiday

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A public holiday, national holiday, federal holiday, statutory holiday, or legal holiday is a holiday generally established by law and is usually a non-working day during the year.


Civic holiday[edit]

A civic holiday, also known as a civil or work holiday, is a day that is legally recognized and celebrated as a holiday in a particular sovereign state or jurisdictional subdivision of such, e.g., a state or a province. It is usually a day that the legislature, parliament, congress or sovereign has declared by statute, edict or decree as a non-working day when the official arms of government such as the court system are closed. In federal states there may also be different holidays for the constituent states or provinces, as in the United States where holidays that were established by the federal government are called federal holidays. Such days may or may not be counted in calculating the statute of limitations in legal actions and are usually days when non-custodial parents are given alternating visitation or access to their children from a prior marriage or relationship according to a parenting schedule.

The term may also be used to distinguish between days that may be celebrated as secular holidays rather than religious holidays such as the celebration of New Year's Day on January 1 (Gregorian calendar) and January 14 (Julian Calendar) in certain eastern Orthodox Christian countries such as Russia.

Bank holiday[edit]

In the British Isles, the term bank holiday is used to refer to days established as public holidays in statute law.[1] In England and Wales, Good Friday and Christmas Day are known as common law holidays, as they have been celebrated by custom since time immemorial.[2] Bank holidays were introduced in the late 19th century to extend the labour rights citizens have on common law holidays to four additional days.[2][3]


The major social function of public holidays is the co-ordination of leisure time. This co-ordination has costs, such as congestion and overcrowding (in leisure facilities, on transport systems) and benefits (easier for people to arrange social occasions).[4]

Public holidays constitute an important part of nation building and become important symbols of the nation. They can build and legitimise the nation and are intended to foster national unity, social cohesion and popular identification. They provide national governments with annual opportunities to reinforce the status of the nation.[citation needed] Sabine Marschall argues that public holidays can be regarded as sites of memory, which preserve particular representations of historical events and particular national or public heroes.[5]

Public holidays by country[edit]

In some countries, there are national laws that make some or all public holidays paid holidays, and in other countries, there are no such laws, though many firms provide days off as paid or unpaid holidays.

They vary by country and may vary by year. With 36 days a year, Nepal is the country with the highest number of public holidays but it observes six working days a week. India ranks second with 21 national holidays, followed by Colombia and the Philippines at 18 each. Likewise, China and Hong Kong enjoy 17 public breaks a year.[6] Some countries (e.g. Cambodia) with a longer, six-day workweek, have more holidays (28) to compensate.[7]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, a national law sets 12 paid public holidays. If a worker works on a public holiday, they are to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay and be given another alternate day off.

South Africa[edit]

Sabie Marschall argues that the revised set of public holidays in post-Apartheid South Africa attempts to produce and celebrate a particular national identity in line with the political goal of the rainbow nation.[5]

United States[edit]

In the United States, there is no national law requiring that employers pay employees who do not work on public holidays (although the U.S. states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts have paid holiday laws).


Some public holidays are controversial. For example, in the United States a federal holiday commemorates explorer Christopher Columbus, who is said to have discovered the Americas by Europeans. This has led to protests at Columbus Day parades and calls for the public holiday to be changed. Some states have adopted the day as Indigenous People's Day rather than Columbus Day.[8]

Similarly, Australia day commemorates the day when the First Fleet first arrived in the country on 26 January 1788 at Sydney Cove. This has also led to protests, with many Australians seeing the date as a symbol of the beginning of European oppression towards the indigenous population. The holiday has since garnered the nickname 'Invasion Day.'[9] Whilst the national date has yet to be changed, many Australia day staples, such as citizenship ceremonies and Triple J's Hottest !00, have been moved to alternative dates.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pyper, Douglas (18 December 2015). "Bank and public holidays". Research briefings - UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 16 February 2020. Retrieved 27 December 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Bank Holiday Fact File" (PDF). TUC. 22 May 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bank Holidays". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 320.
  4. ^ Merz, Joachim; Osberg, Lars (2006-04-01). "Keeping in Touch: A Benefit of Public Holidays". IZA Discussion Paper. Rochester, NY – via SSRN.
  5. ^ a b Marschall, Sabine (January 2013). "Public holidays as lieux de mémoire: nation-building and the politics of public memory in South Africa". Anthropology Southern Africa. 36 (1–2): 11–21. doi:10.1080/23323256.2013.11500039. ISSN 2332-3256.
  6. ^ Jha, Manish (7 October 2016). "Regular breaks". Nepali Times. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  7. ^ O'Byrne, Brendan; Hor, Kimsay (22 February 2018). "Can Cambodia stay competitive with so many public holidays?". The Phnom Penh Post. Archived from the original on 22 February 2018. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy". HISTORY. Archived from the original on 2022-12-26. Retrieved 2022-12-27.
  9. ^ "Australia Day wasn't always on 26 January. Why is the national holiday on that date now?". SBS News. Retrieved 2024-01-25.