While most Americans know that Christmas is a federal holiday, many do not know how it came to be so. In the 1800s, Americans began to re-invent Christmas, turning it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. They took pieces of customs from a wide variety of sources, including European immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches. This is how they developed the traditions we celebrate today, including exchanging gifts, baking cookies and decorating trees.
In modern times, Christmas is a worldwide religious and cultural celebration observed primarily on December 25 as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of Christianity. While the religious significance of Christmas is central to the holiday, its secular aspects are equally important. The majority of people celebrate Christmas by opening and exchanging gifts, by attending religious services and by spending time with their families and friends. Many also decorate homes and send greeting cards. Christmas is also a major shopping and business holiday.
The United States has eleven official federal holidays recognized by law. During a federal holiday, all non-essential government offices are closed and most federal employees get paid time off. The dates of these holidays are set by Congress. Several of the holidays commemorate events or figures in the country’s history, while others honor specific religious beliefs. The first federal holiday was established in 1870, and was named for George Washington.
When it comes to a constitutional argument over whether Christmas should be a holiday, the most straightforward answer is no. The Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits the federal government from endorsing any religion. However, since the Establishment Clause was enacted well before the first federal holiday was created, it would not be applicable.
This is especially true because the first federal holiday was a result of congressional action to honor George Washington, not for the purpose of establishing any particular religion. Moreover, the Constitution does not prevent Congress from creating additional federal holidays in the future.
It should be noted that, while federal holidays are observed nationwide, some states do not recognize all of them. For example, Oklahoma does not recognize New Year’s Day as a state holiday. If you are traveling in another state, check with the local government to see which federal holidays they observe. This information can help you plan your trip. You should also know that some federal offices are open on federal holidays, including the U.S. Postal Service, although their hours are reduced. In addition, the NYSE and some stock exchanges operate on a different schedule on certain days of the week during the holiday season. If you work for a private corporation, you should check with your employer to see how they handle their holiday schedule. This way, you can avoid any potential confusion or misunderstandings regarding your holiday schedule. This is particularly important if you are going to work during the holidays and need to plan accordingly.