Grammar Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due

America prizes its holidays and other days of distinction. Whether for federal, state, civic, or religious observance, we have a slew of causes for commemoration.

In the grammatical world, designated days have stature and so receive proper-noun treatment. At the same time, confusion can still seep in over style. For example, do we write Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving day?

We’re here to help clarify that for precision in writing.

The Associated Press Stylebook advises to capitalize holidays and holy days. The Chicago Manual of Style directs to capitalize religious holidays as well as most secular holidays and other specially marked days, such as April Fools’ Day.

With that in mind, here are examples of proper treatments for different holidays by category. The federal list is complete; the others are partial.

Federal Holidays
New Year’s Day [Jan. 1] Labor Day [first Mon. in Sept.]
Martin Luther King Jr. Day [third Mon. of Jan.] Columbus Day [second Mon. of Oct.]
Presidents’ (or Presidents) Day or Washington’s Birthday [third Mon. of Feb.] Veterans Day [Nov. 11]
Memorial Day [last Mon. in May] Thanksgiving (Day) [fourth Thurs. of Nov.]
Juneteenth National Independence Day [June 19] Christmas (Day) [Dec. 25]
Independence Day (Fourth of July)
State Holidays [not all are observed nationwide; some are state specific]
Lincoln’s Birthday [Feb. 12] Arbor Day [varies by state]
Casmir Pulaski Day [first Mon. in March] Bunker Hill Day [June 17]
Cesar Chavez Day [March 31] Rosh Hashanah [goes by Jewish calendar, usually Sept.]
Good Friday [Fri. before Easter Sun.] Family Day [day after Thanksgiving]
Patriot’s Day [third Mon. in April] New Year’s Eve [Dec. 31]
Secular and Specially Designated Days
Groundhog Day [Feb. 2] Mother’s Day [second Sun. of May]
Valentine’s Day [Feb. 14] Flag Day [June 14]
St. Patrick’s Day [March 17] Father’s Day [third Sun. in June]
Tax Day [April 15 unless on a weekend or holiday] Halloween (day) [Oct. 31]
Cinco de Mayo [May 5] Kwanzaa [Dec. 26–Jan. 1]
Religious Observances
Easter Sunday [varies March 22–April 25]
Ramadan [ninth month of the Islamic calendar]
Diwali [varies according to Hindu calendar]
Hanukkah/Chanukah [varies late Nov. to late Dec.]
Christmas Eve [Dec. 24]

AP and CMOS differ concerning the reference to the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Normandy, France. AP treats it as D-Day and CMOS would print it as D day.

They also diverge in their treatment of election day and inauguration day. CMOS instructs to lowercase both phrases as descriptive designations. AP agrees with the exception of references to the formal ceremonies including inauguration of a U.S. president (e.g., The inauguration day for the company’s new policies is yet to be decided, but The U.S. Inauguration Day is January 20.).

Following proper grammatical style for days of distinction helps maintain their meaning to us. Who would want a calendar full of just this day or that day? By identifying their stature in writing, we hold high our reasons to observe and celebrate.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

18 responses to “Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due”

  1. Dinah says:

    I do wish you had included “Daylight Saving Time.” The common misspelling–Daylight Savings Time–is literally etched in granite at the Davis Mountains Observatory sundial near Fort Davis, TX. Cringe! Unforgivable.

  2. MitziCarrollEditor says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I know all these but I find myself looking them up almost every time. Have a wonderful Independence Day!

  3. Bill P. says:

    Why isn’t it:

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Day
    Veterans’ Day
    Patriots’ Day
    Mothers’ Day
    Fathers’ Day

    Shouldn’t there be a couple commas for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day to be properly punctuated? And, the last four are for more than one person. Just some thoughts on my part.

    • As we point out in Rule 11 of Commas, the commas with Jr. or Sr. are no longer considered mandatory. In the case of Martin Luther King, he himself omitted the comma from his name, and the title of the holiday therefore follows suit.

      We agree that there is no uniformity regarding the plural possessive as far as holidays are concerned. We most recently talked about it in our May 8, 2018, newsletter Confusing Possessives Revisited. It seems that in establishing and naming the holidays, it was determined that the plural reference would be used as a descriptive adjective rather than as a possessive one. We talked more about that in Apostrophes and False Possessives.

  4. PeeJay says:

    I loudly protest. “Valentine’s Day” It should be St. Valentine’s Day. What’s next, “Patrick’s Day”?

    • We’re not sure this is something worth getting too worked up about. Some do refer to it as St. Valentine’s Day, but for the most part, the slightly shorter Valentine’s Day seems to have taken hold. We cannot find any style guide that takes an official stance. We’ll post this on our blog and see if any of our readers have any insight.

  5. Joyce Hurlbut says:

    When listing multiple holidays in a sentence, i.e, Veterans, Columbus and Victory Days, should “Days” be upper or lower case “D”?

  6. Cool Catz Don't Do Drugs says:

    How would you write “You are invited to celebrate the wedding of Jane Sarah Doe and John Jacob Smith on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 2022, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon”?

    I’m uncertain how to punctuate the holiday.

    Could it just be circumvented by formatting an invitation as so:

    You are invited
    to celebrate the wedding of
    Jane Sarah Doe
    John Jacob Smith
    Memorial Day
    Monday, May 30, 2022
    at 5 o’clock in the afternoon

    • says:

      Invitations have their own sets of rules and styles and do not always follow the rules for formal writing. If you will have the invitations professionally printed, they will have recommendations for you. If you are printing them yourself, you might want to search wedding websites. The style is up to you.

  7. Stephanie says:

    How would I punctuate “Christmas Eve 1914” in the middle of a sentence? Would I still need a comma after the year?

    • says:

      “Christmas Eve 1914” is not considered a complete date; therefore, no comma is necessary.

  8. Mike Fischer says:

    I’m told that today is “Zoo Lovers Day”. Are these days ever hyphenated? I feel like it would help distinguish between the day for those who love zoos and the day for those who choose zoos as the destination for their loving. See also: Hotel-Lovers Day. I also wonder if Lovers should be possessive? The quesiton seems to be up in the air for Presidents Day? I guess there’s some ambiguity in the implied conjunction for these days?

  9. Bella Collins says:

    How would you write Jane Smith in memorial of her birthday month?

  10. Karrie says:

    What about a day we’re having at work? Like “Transformation Day.” Would that be capitalized?

    • says:

      Since it is a title given to a specific event, your capitalization is fine.

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