Public Holidays



Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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32 Responses

  1. Is American Thanksgiving a secular holiday? There’s a viable argument that Canadian Thanksgiving isn’t.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:


    My understanding is that there is also a list of other approved holidays which people can opt to take off separate from their regular PTO and sick days.

    Also, I typically see it written/pronounced as Diwali. Is there a reason for the difference?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      North Indians call it Diwali and celebrate it one day later. South Indians call it Deepavali. Deepa meaning lamp and vali referring to path. At night, the driveway* is lined with clay lamps.

      *or equivalent in pre automobile societyReport

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    Most of the companies I’ve worked for give you the following paid holidays. Note that these are NOT the same as gov’t paid holidays, but there is some overlap:

    New Year’s Day-Secular
    Memorial Day-Secular
    Labor Day-Secular
    Thanksgiving and the day after-Secular
    Christmas-Nominally religious but Secular too.

    I also get “floating holidays” where I can take off for gov’t holidays, like Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, or any religious holiday, be it Jewish, Christian, etc.Report

  4. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t think businesses are required to give any days off. Some retail businesses are open every day, and I know I’ve never gotten Good Friday off.Report

  5. Avatar bearing says:

    You wrote, “in the US, the only religious occasions which the government requires businesses to give holidays for are Christian ones.”

    But this isn’t quite right. Under the 1st amendment, neither federal, state, nor local governments can *require* businesses or individuals to observe any holiday, with the exception of federally regulated/chartered businesses like federal banks, which fall under federal jurisdiction. See

  6. Avatar Will Truman says:

    As mentioned, businesses are not required to give holidays for religious holidays. However, we always got Good Friday off school, it was called “Good Friday”, and that is a religious holiday. So there is a legitimate point here.Report

    • Avatar bearing says:

      I know, but this is not the same constitutional question that the blogger posted. If you’re going to ask a question about constitutional law, then you need to get the facts straight.

      A local government deciding to observe a religious holiday by declining to call into work its employees is not the same constitutional question as the imaginary one that would be raised by federal/state/local governments “requiring businesses to give holidays.” The legitimate point may exist, but it’s not the one the blogger posted.

      And I’m guessing that if you do much investigation you’ll find someone somewhere has already tested this practice.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I agree. I also think that the error of the original question is quite understandable for someone who is not an American and has spent some but not a significant amount of time here. So I was sort of redirecting the original post – the error in which others pointed out – towards a more real issue.

        I am curious when and if this has been tested. To my knowledge, the “Under God” in the pledge still hasn’t been entirely resolved, and that one is of higher profile. The famous case where it was brought up was tossed out for standing. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same was true of Good Friday holiday. (The solution to which may be as simple as calling it “Spring Friday” or something.)Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      Schools are often closed on religious holidays if they project a sufficient number of students and teachers would be out.

      School years are determined by “number of days” (180 or so around here), which days they are is somewhat immaterial.

      In general, there are an awful lot of low-level Church/state separation violations that are basically ignored as simply being too traditional and too low-key to really affect anyone.

      Of course, in some states those low-levels might get bumped up a few notches. I’m aware of a number of local public school traditions here in Texas that are in flagrant violation of the Constitution (mostly involving prayer).

      There’s been a flurry of Facebook complaining from people who seem to think Texas schools no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance (they did last time I checked), all of whom seem to think it’s unconstitutional nature is due to sue-happy liberals and atheists — rather than, IIRC, Jehovah’s Witnesses who disliked being forced to pledge to a secular state.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Complain as the Pamela Gellars of the world will about “Dearbornistan” in Michigan, the exact same reason why some kids in some parts of the world get Good Friday off school is the same reason kids in Dearborn get Eid al-Adha off school. Which seems an inescapable result to me — if you’re going to insist that Muslims aren’t accommodated in communities where there are a lot of them, then that means Christians aren’t accommodated in their home communities, either.

        Me, I’m an atheist. We don’t get any special holidays. But I’ll enjoy the days off when I get them so while you’re fasting or going to mass or whatever, I’ll be quite happy to be at home roasting babies to eat for dinner with all my atheist friends, or whatever the hell else it is that atheists do (which, sarcastic eating-babies-jokes aside, quite probably looks a lot like whatever it is that you do when what you’re doing isn’t worshiping). My objection comes when it looks like the government has stopped accommodating you, and started endorsing you.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Gellar is especially galling because she lives in NYC-Metro which makes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur school holidays because of the large Jewish populations.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Maybe we could get October 1 declared Atheist Day. (The third day of Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s death, on which she did not rise.)Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        My son’s school does the pledge and a moment of silence every morning. So did his middle and elementary schools. So at least some schools in Texas do.Report

  7. Avatar NewDealer says:

    You are not exactly right because there are secular holidays that are national and were mentioned upthread.

    The government cannot require employers to give off on those days but they are shut down. Many employers choose to give off on their own free will though. Not all though, hence the joke/tradition about Jews going out for movies and Chinese food on Christmas Day because everything else is closed. My local coffee shop is open 365 days a year.

    Some public school districts are closed on the Jewish High Holidays because many of the students and teachers would take off for observation and it makes sense to do so (enough to cripple operations and the school would be required to grant time off without damage anyway.) These are mainly in NYC and the surrounding suburbs.*

    *My grad school was a private university and did not hold classes on the Jewish high holidays because of a large number of Jewish faculty, admin, and students. One classmate was not from NYC and the child of a minister. Said classmate complained about the closing and I kind of liked that he understood he got to feel non-majoritarian for a change.Report

  8. Avatar j r says:

    This seems like one of those areas that people have managed to work out on their own and in a decentralized manner just fine. What would the purpose of additional laws and regulations be?

    Also, most people with salaried jobs have either floating holidays or leave that they can use when needed. Hourly workers may be a different stories, but these days my understanding is that most hourly workers want more hours than they are getting, so mandating additional time off would likely make them worse off.Report

  9. Avatar Murali says:

    It seems that I was rather imprecise. Businesses are still open here too, but people who work on Sundays and other public holidays are required to be given an off in lieu (unless they are self employed in which case it is their own business and problem if they don’t take a holiday)Report

  10. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Federal holidays are outlined in 5 U.S.C. § 6103. Only one of them, Christmas, is religious in nature.

    Christmas has for many decades now been a much-secularized, and deeply pervasive, cultural event in which non-Christians widely participate. Certainly its roots are religious and for Christians it is a very important religious event.

    As I wrote in response to the Halloween thread, the question is whether having Christmas as a governmental holiday is, or at least ought to be, whether that would be taken by a non-Christian as a governmental endorsement of Christianity. It’s closer than the costumes, I think, given that Christmas is indeed a religious holiday and “Christ” is, after all, right there in the name.

    But I’ve also noted that the government is not obligated to ignore the fact that religion exists in society and that a very large percentage of people, including its own employees, are Christian. In the case of the government, there’s also the cognate restriction on its power that is expressed in the Free Exercise Clause — if keeping the government open on Christmas would substantially burden a large number of Christians from practicing their religion and there is a reasonable alternative policy available, the government can’t do that, either. And if it turns out that between seventy to ninety percent of your employees are going to want a day off work at the same time, maybe it makes good management sense to just shut down for that day — not to endorse the religion, but because it will keep employee morale high.

    Not everyone in Singapore is Hindu (wiki reports that it’s a very pluralistic society with respect to religion). Of course, there is no First Amendment there; the constitutional restrictions on government power will be different. But still, accommodating a desire of a large number of people to have a day off for the religious holiday isn’t the same thing as endorsing the religion; do you assume that by making Deepavali a holiday, the government of Singapore is endorsing Hinduism? Or is it merely accommodating it?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      do you assume that by making Deepavali a holiday, the government of Singapore is endorsing Hinduism? Or is it merely accommodating it?

      Common sense would tell me that I should leave enough well alone, but there is a vague abstract sense in which it could seem like a sort of endorsement. So, major religious groups are supposed to get two of their Holy Days recognised as government holidays. But if you’re Hindu you only get one. If you’re Chinese and Christian you get 4*. If you’re Chinese and Buddhist you get 3*. If you’re Muslim you get two, unless you’re Chinese and Muslim in which case you get 4. The point is not necessarily about endorsement, but that if the government accommodates one religion more than others, I can see how it might seem unfair and still entangle religion and state.

      *Because Chinese new year is very big here and is about the only time when about half the businesses shut down (at least for one of the days). Chinese new Year is a public holiday even though there is no religious significance to it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “The point is not necessarily about endorsement, but that if the government accommodates one religion more than others, I can see how it might seem unfair and still entangle religion and state.”

        But can’t this be resolved by looking at what the individual needs of the groups are? By this logic, we shouldn’t have urinals in men’s rooms because we don’t have them in women’s rooms.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        I think in the end you just need to be a bit practical like Burt said.

        Most people in the United States are Christian or nominally Christian or just like to celebrate secular Christmas*. They would see it as scrouge-like, mean-spirited, petty, and wrong if the First Amendment forbade taking off on Chirstmas or kept the government open. I imagine most people would take off anyway unless they were deemed an essential service** like police, firefighters, emergency staff at a hospital or nursing home. Obviously not everyone gets to take off but people who don’t should get some form of overtime or in lieu time.

        *I’ve gotten into many debates where people feel kind of offended that I refuse to celebrate secular Christmas even though I’m Jewish. They think everyone should celebrate secular Christmas.

        **People also get mad at the Jewish tradition of going to movies because it means non-essential people need to work. I think they think we should just stay at home.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        It’s OK for us to go to a movie on Christmas. On Good Friday, though, we need to stay home and think about what we did.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        i prefer to celebrate festivus…and did so at a company…down to the feats of strenth, and all that..except for the airing on griviences….the company didn’t want any complaints :pReport

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @mike-schilling, interesting factoid but in Eastern Europe, Jews observed Christmas.

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Observe as in “Be careful because today gives them another excuse to murder us.”Report