In the U.S., Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Veterans’ Month, and Japanese American Veterans’ Day are just a few of the forms of national identity granted to American peoples by respective national holidays.
Independence, the holiday that was the subject of July 4 celebrations for hundreds of years, is the only one that spans a calendar year and is often associated with June and the great achievements of the colonists. Some argue that in today’s world, with modern state governments, all four holidays should be treated the same. Others simply want to define the meanings of the holidays in historical context and require celebrations to be continued year-round.
It’s important to remember that holiday laws differ from state to state and the federal government’s primary role is to recognize national holidays. Separate states should not have to have contradictory states.
A new, nationally recognized minority holiday, Omicron, was created by the Democratic National Committee in June of 2017. The Omicron identity is based on the name of the date Hawaii was considered “discovered” by Japanese explorers in 1778. Like any other new holiday, Omicron is recognized in seven states — Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Washington — plus the District of Columbia. There is also a special law allowing for French-American holiday Fête de la Musique, or Musical Fete of the Muses, to be recognized in California.
Omicron was created on June 5, 2017, with only one question asked: “How did Hawaii become our newest state?” On June 8, 2017, the day the state was renamed Omicron, the White House recognized the date and held a holiday reception hosted by First Lady Melania Trump to celebrate the day. Omicron would mark the 15th anniversary of the Second Session of the Democratic National Committee. The name honors the Greek word for “somewhere,” “moot number.”
A late arrival at the holiday party, Omicron also came at a time of intense debate about federal recognition of Native American tribes. In California, state government is waiting for the outcome of a lawsuit that led to the Oct. 5, 2018, issuance of the first state recognition of a tribe, as anticipated. Alaska Congresswoman Diana DeGette led the push in California for recognition of a Cherokee tribe and the Ojibwe tribe of Michigan; in Hawaii, the Bureau of Land Management’s initial recognition of a Waipahu, Hawaii, tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota.
Honoring State and Local Officials
Other states recognize the holidays of professional and non-professional public officials, and both businesses and NGOs that are or promote themselves as serving in such roles.
Other than state legislatures, states and local governments can designate official celebrations for some of the federal holidays, including the national observance of Flag Day, June 14, and Labor Day, Sept. 3. The U.S. flag can, in many states, be displayed for a period of 15 minutes.
California has four federally recognized celebrations of the holiday of Public Lands Day, including National Trails Day (Aug. 18), National Forest Service Heritage Day (Sept. 16), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 30), and Golden Gate National Recreation Area Day (Oct. 21).
In Alaska, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring the safety of wild animals. Its Alaska State Wildlife Health Research Center conducts animal-cruelty research, tracks and monitors for chronic wasting disease, and conducts biosecurity-testing on salmon for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. All these activities create significant opportunities for Alaska to celebrate federal holidays — particularly the annual rally against chronic wasting disease.
Other examples of official state holidays include private schools, private-public companies, small businesses, hospitals, sororities, fraternities, and private sports associations.