Public holidays had their origins from established federal holidays that were enacted by Congress. They were typically observed on days that have significance for various sectors of American society and are observed at all levels of society including government, the private sector, and are typically derived from the history, religion and the cultures of the U.S. demographics and have changed over time. Observances of holidays are most commonly observed with paid time off, however, many holiday celebrations are done with festivities without time off. Some are observed with community work depending on the meaning of the holiday. They are however not mandated by any government, agencies, whether it be federal, state, or local governments. There are no national holidays on which all businesses are closed by law. Federal holidays are only established for certain federally chartered and regulated businesses (such as federal banks), and for Washington, D.C. All other public holidays are created by the States; most states also allow local jurisdictions (cities, villages, etc.) to establish their own local holidays. As a result, holidays have not historically been governed at the federal level and federal law does not govern business opening. Some states restrict some business activities on some holidays. Business closures are mandated on some holidays in some states for certain kinds of businesses by Blue Laws. For example, some businesses cannot open on Thanksgiving Day in some New England states if the businesses operated on more than 5000 square feet of space. The most notable businesses to close on such occasions are car dealerships and establishments selling alcohol.
As of 2012, there were eleven federal holidays in the United States, ten annual holidays and one quadrennial holiday (Inauguration Day). Pursuant to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 (effective 1971), official holidays are observed on a Monday, except for New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
While all current federal holidays have also been made public holidays in all 50 states for federal organizations, each state is not bound to observe the holidays on the same dates as the federal holidays. Many states also have additional holidays that are not observed by the U.S. federal government. Many businesses likewise observe certain holidays as well, which are also not mandated by any government agency. A list of "recommended diversity holidays" recognizes many cultures that range from Christianity to Islam, as well as racial diversity where various ethnic holidays such as St. Patrick's Day, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Mardi Gras, and Cinco de Mayo are celebrated by individuals in the workplace, as a matter of best practice. In light of recent race issues in the United States, many municipalities both at the city and state levels have begun celebrating Malcolm X Day and Rosa Parks Day in addition to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to embrace the mostly disenfranchised African American community in the form of festivals and parades if not done as a legal public holiday. Illinois and Berkeley, California are two places where Malcolm X is honored with a legal holiday with offices closed whereas Missouri honored Rosa Parks on her birthday. Today, the United States is the 85th most ethnically diverse country in the world. While the popularity of each public holiday cannot easily be measured, the holiday with the highest greeting card sales is Christmas. Major retail establishments such as malls, shopping centers and most retail stores close only on Thanksgiving and Christmas and some on Easter Sunday as well, but remain open on all other holidays (early closing on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and sometimes on other major holidays). Virtually all companies observe and close on the major holidays (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Some non-retail business close on the day after Thanksgiving, while some (such as federal banks and post offices) are not allowed to close on the day after Thanksgiving. Some smaller businesses normally open on Sunday will close on Easter Sunday, if it is their experience they will have very few customers that day.
The labor force in the United States comprises about 62% (as of 2014) of the general population. In the United States, 97% of the private sector businesses determine what days this sector of the population gets paid time off, according to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management. The following holidays are observed by the majority of the U.S. businesses with paid time off: