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What makes a federal holiday?

Throughout the year, select government offices and many financial institutions are closed to observe designated federal holidays. In the United States, a federal holiday is one that is recognized by Congress and is designated in Title V of the U.S. Code 6103 – Holidays, which allows Congress the authority to create holidays for federal institutions. As the summer holidays approach, we are sharing a brief history behind some of these old (and new) holidays.

Federal holidays throughout history

The first federal holidays were created in 1870 when Congress granted paid time off to federal workers in the District of Columbia for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. In 1880, George Washington’s birthday was added. In 1885, Congress extended some holiday coverage to all federal employees. Although Thanksgiving Day was included in the first holiday bill, it was not until 1941 that Congress designated the fourth Thursday in November as the official date.

Looking ahead to Juneteenth National Independence Day

In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation making June 19 – Juneteenth National Independence Day – a federal holiday. This year, Juneteenth National Independence Day falls on a Sunday, which means Federal Reserve Banks and branches will be closed the following Monday, June 20, 2022.

Action Item:

Don’t forget to program Juneteenth National Independence Day into your back-end systems to ensure your payment operations continue to run smoothly through the holiday weekend.

Observing federal holidays

On federal holidays, all nonessential federal offices and many financial institutions are closed for business. Although often observed nationwide, they are not “national holidays.” Each state decides whether to legally observe a federal holiday. In fact, even though many states recognize most, or all federal holidays, the federal government cannot enact laws requiring them to do so. Likewise, states can observe local and city holidays that are not recognized at the federal level.

Federal Reserve Bank holidays

The Federal Reserve Banks observe all federal holidays. For holidays falling on a Saturday, Federal Reserve Banks and branches are open the preceding Friday. For holidays falling on a Sunday, all Federal Reserve Banks and branches are closed the following Monday.

Reference and bookmark the Holiday Schedules page to learn how the Federal Reserve Banks and branches observe holidays that fall on Saturdays and Sundays. You can also visit the Fed360® Dates to Remember page to keep track of upcoming holidays.