Too Many Federal Holidays?

Today, Monday February 15, 2010 is Presidents’ Day.  For those federal employees living in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, due to two blizzards, federal offices were closed four out of five days preceding the holiday.   Don’t know what the figures are but I expect the costs of the shut down, thanks to mother nature, were high.

There are ten federal holidays:  New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Maybe a few should be eliminated to save money.  But which ones?   I think most Americans view as sacrosanct, the following holidays:  New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Supporters of the military and veterans’ groups would scream and howl if Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day were no longer recognized as federal holidays.  At the time of  WWII a lot of  Americans had family members or knew someone in the military and thus had a closer connection and awareness of the military.   Today, even with troops deployed in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, very few Americans have military members in their families or even know of someone serving in the military.

Unfortunately a lot of Americans view Memorial Day as the “official start of summer.”   Labor Day is the “official end of summer.”   The original purposes for setting aside these days as federal holidays have been lost.

The remaining three – Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Columbus Day – are probably the three most vulnerable days to be eliminated as federal holidays.  Now, Black Americans would be rather  unhappy if Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day is no longer recognized as a federal holiday.  Since Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day is the most recent federally recognized holiday, Black Americans may charge, “last hired” [recognized], “first fired” [to lose federal recognition].

Presidents’ Day – at places like Mount Vernon and Monticello – is fully celebrated.  But how many Americans go out of their way to do something in recognition of Presidents’ Day?  And, going to a store to purchase something at a discounted price in honor of Presidents’ Day doesn’t count.  🙂

Columbus Day – for some Americans, particularly Native Americans, Christopher Columbus represents genocide.  On several occasions during the past 10 years or so, either a Native American group or a group sympathetic to Native Americans, has tossed blood on Christopher Columbus’ statute in front of Union Station.  For others, Christopher Columbus was actually “a johnny come lately.”  Others had been to the “new world” before Columbus.  Scientists have unearthed evidence that the Chinese, the Japanese, the Vikings [which everyone accepts], and even Africans [They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America by Ivan Van Sertima] arrived in the “Americas” before Columbus in 1492.

The United States of America is burdened with too much debt.  Eliminating three federal holidays would be a positive step toward saving $$$.  But more austere measures may be coming down the pipe.  Ask a retiree.  For 2010, there was no COLA (cost of living allowance).  IMHO, Federal employees should not, I repeat, should not expect to receive any COLA for 2011.  Frankly, I was surprised a COLA was given in 2010 considering the country’s indebtedness.

IMHO, military members and civilians deployed to dangerous locations deserve a hefty hazardous pay.  Some of you may scream, not fair, not fair! If you work at the Department of Energy, the Department of Education or the Environmental Protection Agency, please explain how your line of work is hazardous comparable to military members and civilians deployed in certain locations overseas.

If you, as a federal civilian employee, would still be perturbed if there’s no COLA in 2011, keep in mind that circumstances could be worse.  You could be a civilian employee in Greece.  That nation can’t pay its bills and the European Union (primarily Germany and France) will have to come to the rescue.  Employees of the Greek government face a 15% cut in wages.



  1. February 16, 2010 at 4:10 am

    The other side to this is Americans don’t take Vacations. Not true European Vacations – like 2-4 weeks. If we take a week, that’s a lot. So the American version of the “vacation” is a long weekend. these federal holidays are our way of taking a minivacation. It benefits our mental health. Some people only get 2 weeks’ vacation. So add 10 federal holidays and you get the civilized 4 weeks off that Europeans get.

    Oh and every day the government was closed last week for snow? $100 Million per day. At least, that’s the number I heard.

    But I do hear you – “we” do get a lot of days off. The question becomes, how many days off total do we have? And how do we use them?

  2. Nakesha said,

    February 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Very interesting and something I never thought about. First, I’m not sure if Federal holidays should be reduced and eliminated, as I agree with the previous post that compared to Europe, Americans do not take enough vacation.

    However, I think the Federal Government and it’s employees need to be a lot more flexible and nimble. Given the fact that the government was shut down for a couple of days prior to 2/15, they should have just opened on 2/15. I suspect most folks would not have minded, as cabin fever likely set in.

  3. Kirsty said,

    February 23, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Presidents’ Day to Memorial Day is a l o n g stretch without any holidays. I think workers get a bit burned out during this long period and lose productivity. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, MLK Jr. b’day, and Presidents’ Day are all clumped together. I always said the work world would have gone much more smoothly if MLK had been born in mid to late March instead of January when no one is feeling the emotional need for a holiday!

    I think who he is and what he stands for is too important to give up for us as a nation and what we say we stand for. No offense to Regan, Bush, Clinton, Obama, etc. but you are right; Presidents’ Day is really about the fewest number of people and sometimes the most undeserving(!) Do people really stop to reflect upon the presidents of our country that day? I know we used it as a time to study the presidents in our schools (especially Washington and LIncoln since Feb. is their b’days and originally who the holiday was first created to honor (when I was a kid; then it got changed later to all presidents). My vote is to combine the Presidents and MKK holidays into Great Americans Day and put it in March when we need one! Haha

    OTOH, ten holidays only makes two weeks off during the year. Most Americans have such less vacation than Europe that even with two weeks of holidays, the lower level workers (2 wks. vacation) still don’t get as many days off as Europeans. We already work longer hours and more days. I don’t know that more work would improve productivity; I think working more with less 3-day weekends might actually decrease productivity…

    just a thought! (PS I’ve always liked those companies that give employees their birthdays off, too!)

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