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What is the definition of a federal legal holiday?

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Quick Answer

A federal, legal holiday is a day that has been declared a legal day off by Federal statute or Executive order. When a legal holiday falls on a Saturday, the Friday immediately preceding the holiday is considered a public holiday for any employees that regularly work Monday through Friday.

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Full Answer

There are ten U.S. Federal holidays each year that are designated by the United States Congress. While many other countries have "national holidays," in the United States, only Federal holidays exist, due to the fact that Congress can only create holidays for Federal organizations and institutions. Generally speaking, States also observe Federal holidays. Federal holidays are referred to as legal or public holidays not because the observance is required; rather, because it is so widespread.

Banks usually observe the same holidays as the Federal government, as they mirror the calendar of the Federal Reserve, though many banks do observe additional holidays. One additional holiday to the standard ten Federal holidays previously mentioned is Inauguration Day, which Congress designates as January 20th following a Presidential election. In general, only government employees in Washington, DC observe Inauguration Day, as its primary purpose is to relieve commuter congestion in the DC area surrounding Inauguration events.

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