Excerpt from Wikipedia: Public holiday,

A public holiday, national holiday or legal holiday is a holiday generally established by law and is usually a non-working day during the year.

What are the differences between public holiday and national holiday?

  • Don't forget bank holiday. – Mick Dec 16 '16 at 23:44
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    San Jacinto Day is a public holiday in Texas, but it isn't a national holiday throughout the United States. In fact I doubt that any governmental entity anywhere outside Texas celebrates it. – Sven Yargs Dec 16 '16 at 23:47

Any difference between a public holiday and a national holiday definitely depends on which country you are asking about - and even the region within some countries. For most, public and national holidays are usually the same, but a public holiday can be observed on a very local level - for instance, many cities in Italy have a public holiday on the feast day of their particular patron saint, but these are not national holidays.

Over the years, we have tried to define types of holidays - http://www.officeholidays.com/about/holiday_definitions.php - but it is like herding cats at times. Canada is a good example where many of the provinces define different type of public holidays for regions and even industries. In Canada, Remembrance Day even has its own government act, which technically makes it a totally unique holiday.


Oxford Dictionary indicates a public holiday and a national holiday are both defined as

A nationally recognized day when most businesses and other institutions are closed

Whereas a legal holiday is

A public holiday established by law.

So officially legal holidays are government established holidays.

Honestly, though, in my experience (which is mostly from the US), I believe most people don't pay much attention to the varying terminology, and mostly just refer to them as holidays. If they do want to indicate an official holiday, I believe we tend to use the term federal holiday more...

A public holiday established by the federal government of a country.

The biggest distinction between a holiday/public holiday/national holiday and a legal holiday might be in instances when true holidays fall on the weekend, and then a neighboring weekday becomes the work/federal holiday. But like I said, I'm not sure general people worry about the proper terminology much, just more often just interested in anything that is a holiday!

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