Happy early birthday, America.
The United States is coming up on its 247th birthday bash that is celebrated across the country with picnics, parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues. Everything is sashed in red, white and blue, and most public offices, including the federal government’s, are closed.
Thus, federal employees do have Tuesday, July 4, off of work to celebrate the passage of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress, the prototypical governing body of British intellects, farmers and statesmen representing the original 13 colonies.
Of course, the young country was embroiled in a war at the time of the declaration’s first public reading, so it wasn’t until 1781 that Massachusetts became the first state to recognize July 4 as an official holiday.
The White House’s first Independence Day party happened two decades later and it wasn’t until 1870 that it became a federally recognized holiday for the sake of giving public employees’ the day off. In 1938, federal employees were paid for that day.
This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday, leaving some civil servants wondering if the White House or their agency will gift them extra holiday time on Monday to create a long weekend.
In the past, employees have opted to just take a personal or vacation day when a federal holiday interrupts the workweek. And in some years, the president has given employees an extra “holiday,” as Donald Trump did in 2019 when employees were given Tuesday, Dec. 24 off when Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday. Normally, Christmas Eve is not a holiday for federal agencies.
Other presidents, including George Bush, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, have given federal employees Christmas Eve off in the past when it wasn’t automatically granted.
Ronald Reagan, in 1984, did not grant a day off for Dec. 24, but did give federal supervisors the discretion to allow office to close three hours early.
The Code of Federal Regulations says that federal holidays are the 11 which have been already established, and “any other day designated by federal law, executive order or presidential proclamation.”
Agencies have internal policies that allow them to offer extra leave as an award.
In 2021, Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, gave his employees an additional day off in recognition of their work around Labor Day.
So, will federal employees get next Monday off? Too early to say. Until agencies or the president weigh in, expect a normal work day if you’re not already using leave.
Things to do in D.C. on the Fourth of July
Obvious places to watch the fireworks in the district include the National Mall or anywhere along the Potomac River. Those in the know have also recommended sightseeing spots at the U.S. Air Force Memorial, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the National Cathedral or the Kennedy Center’s outdoor areas.
The Washingtonian has a handy map to find a recommended viewing spot near you, and Marylanders can view fireworks shows listed by region.
In terms of other things to do, Mount Vernon is selling tickets for its annual celebration at the museum, or if you feel like ignoring the crowds, you can always watch the Capitol Fourth televised concert.
The Nats will also be playing on the 4th, against the Cincinnati Reds, with an 11 am start time to allow you to see the game and still enjoy holiday activities..
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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