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A New Proposal for American Holidays

Holiday fatigue is real. Moving forward America could benefit from a more considered approach to which holidays we celebrate, and how often we celebrate them.

Currently, there are 18 holidays celebrated by some degree by a significant share of workplaces. Eight holidays are celebrated by more than half of workplaces. But that hardly tells the whole story, as half of the eighteen fall within 75 days of each other between Veterans Day and Martin Luther King Day. There is nearly a 150-day gap between New Year's and Memorial Day, followed by a clustering of four more holidays within 35 days in the summertime. Even this doesn't address the relative weight of obligations associated with these holidays, which skew heavily toward a demand for travel and holiday family engagement at the end of the year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. More people travel for those holidays than any others. Below is a summary of US holidays, with those celebrated by more than half of workplaces highlighted in bold.

First quarter of the year:

  • New Year's Day (95%)

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (37%)

  • Valentine's Day (<5%)

  • President's Day (35%)

  • St. Patrick's Day (<5%)

Second quarter of the year:

  • Easter / Good Friday (28%)

  • Memorial Day (94%)

Third quarter of the year:

  • Day before July 4 (60%)

  • Independence Day (76%)

  • Labor Day (95%)

  • Columbus Day (16%)

Final quarter of the year:

  • Veterans Day (20%)

  • Thanksgiving (97%)

  • Friday after Thanksgiving (76%)

  • Christmas Eve (47%)

  • Christmas (97%)

  • Day after Christmas (26%)

  • New Year's Eve (23%)

While holidays can be a nice break, the lack of an even spread across the year is a problem. So too is the tremendous burden on families and businesses to meet the personal needs of the Christmas holiday while also wrapping up major end-of-year professional engagements.

An Every-Other-Year Approach to Thanksgiving and Christmas

The reality is on a year-on-year basis we really only need to be celebrating one of Christmas and Thanksgiving. Having them both clustered together is far too much. America should commit to an every-other-year approach to both holidays, staggering their schedules so that each year comes with only one of those two holidays. Doing so would allow for a more generous allotment of time off to families around the fall/winter holidays, and also reduce the obligation associated with travel and gift-giving for families scrambled by the burden of two major holidays within such a short timespan.

Instead of every year allocating two days for the Thanksgiving Holiday and five days for Christmas/New Year's, businesses could close for a week for one or the other each year, creating flexible opportunity for families to plan vacations, gift giving, and other non-work ideas.

The same strategy could be applied to Memorial Day and July Fourth, two holidays with similar motives and similar approaches to celebration. While there's hardly the clamor in the case of those two holidays - which people tend to enjoy more than Christmas or Thanksgiving - it's a definite possibility.

A New Spring Holiday

With these two end-of-year and mid-year clusters of holidays, there is an increased role for Labor Day at the middle-point in the Fall. In the spring no such equivalent exists, as few companies agree on the relative significance of President's Day, Easter, or St. Patrick's Day. Each radically different in intent, America could benefit from a consolidated approach to a March holiday.

Better Yet, Scrap Holidays Altogether

The best approach might be to scrap days off around holidays altogether. No, we're not suggesting eliminating holidays; merely the days off. In the spirit of America, shouldn't we believe that Americans can do a better job deciding how to use vacation days at their own discretion, rather than placing the power to decide which days in the hands of a centralized bureaucracy? I haven't polled this yet, but I suspect many Americans would prefer 10 more guaranteed vacation days to use as they please, in place of a spate of important but often inconvenient holidays that lack a coherent organization.

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