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The word "holiday" comes from the Old English word haligdaeg or "Holy Day", and gradually evolved to its current form. The word originally referred only to special religious days. Today, it means any special day off from work or school for rest or relaxation. In most of the English-speaking world, holiday may refer to a specific day declared by a nation, religion, or culture (or in some cases, many nations and cultures) for celebration, commemoration, or some other observance. Schools, businesses, banks, government offices, and other institutions are often closed for holidays.

Many holidays are linked to faiths and religions. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere features many holidays that revolve around festivals or feasts. The Christmas holiday season is on either side of the winter solstice and Christmas is celebrated across many cultures and religions. The Christmas holiday season begins at the beginning of November and ends with the New Year's Day holiday on January 1st. The Christmas holiday season mostly a commercial term that applies starts with the Thanksgiving holiday and ends with New Year's Eve on December 31st. Some Christian countries mark the end of the holiday season after the feast of Epiphany.

Many secular holidays are observed, such as Earth Day or Labor Day, globally and across regions, often along with organizations like the UN.

The US doesn't have national holidays per se. There are no days on which all employees in the country receive a day off from work and all business comes to a stop. The federal government can declare national holidays that give its own employees the day off; However, each state or local jurisdiction has the discretion to determine their official holiday schedules. There are eleven such Federal holidays, ten annual and one quadrennial holiday:

  • New Year's Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Inauguration Day
  • Washington's Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day holiday
  • Labor Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day holiday
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas

On top of official holidays, many ethnic, religious, and other holidays fill up the calendar. These holidays are rarely observed by schools or businesses as holidays. Many are actually viewed as opportunities for sales or other retail promotions. Because of this commercialization, some critics call these holidays "Hallmark holiday" to imply that they were only holidays promoted by a greeting card company. Popular holidays observed in the US are: