When Christmas is On Wednesday: Not Promising for Extra Holiday

It is possible federal employees will be given an extra day off for Christmas this year but not likely based on past experience.

This year, Christmas falls on a Wednesday. Christmas Eve is on Tuesday. As often happens about this time of year, readers are asking: “Will federal employees get an extra holiday on Christmas Eve?”

We don’t know, of course, but the precedent has not been good for federal workers who would like the extra day off in 2019 without having to dip into their leave account. Historically, Wednesday is the worst day for Christmas to fall in order for a president to decide to provide federal employees an extra day off from work.

When Christmas is on a Wednesday,  federal workers are generally expected to report to work the rest of the week or to use annual leave.

Here are the times that presidents have given federal employees extra time off for Christmas Eve when Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday.

  • President George W. Bush provided a half-day holiday on Tuesday, December 24, 2002.
  • President Eisenhower gave employees an extra four hours off when Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday. 
  • President Truman gave employees an extra four hours off on Christmas Eve, a Tuesday in 1946. 
  • President Roosevelt gave employees time off (8 hours) on Tuesday in 1940.

So, federal employees received a half-day off on December 24 in 1946, 1957 and 2002 when Christmas was on a Wednesday. But, they had to work their regular schedules — both on December 24 and December 26 — when Christmas fell on a Wednesday in 1963, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1991, 1996 and 2013.

But, for whatever reason, there appears to be more leeway to giving federal employees an extra day off now than was the case in previous decades.

In 2012, the president announced the extra time off on December 21st. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but that happened after a petition on the White House website asked the president for an extra day of vacation exceeded the minimum signature threshold to require a response from the administration.

In addition to 2012, President Obama gave federal employees a half-day off in 2009, when Christmas fell on a Friday but did not give any time off in 2010 or 2011.

In 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order on December 18 giving federal employees an extra holiday by declaring December 24 (Monday) to be a holiday.

There are instances in which a president has provided extra paid time off of work when Christmas falls on a Wednesday. It is not the usual practice. Employees who need this time for their holiday plans would be well advised to scheduled annual leave for that day.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47