Christmas Day is codified as a federal holiday under Title 5, §6103 of the U.S. Code.
President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a legal holiday in 1870. The bill to make Christmas a holiday was introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Burton Chauncey Cook (Illinois). It was approved and passed to the Senate on June 24, 1870. When both houses had agreed on the wording (below) it was passed on to President Grant, who signed it on June 28, 1870. Here is the wording of that act of Congress: An Act making the first Day of January, the twenty-fifth Day of December, the fourth Day of July, and Thanksgiving Day, Holidays, within the District of Columbia. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following days, to wit: The first day of January, commonly called New Year’s day, the fourth day of July, the twenty-fifth day of December, commonly called Christmas Day, and any day appointed or recommended by the President of the United States as a day of public fast or thanksgiving, shall be holidays within the District of Columbia, and shall, for all purposes of presenting for payment or acceptance of the maturity and protest, and giving notice of the dishonor of bills of exchange, bank checks and promissory notes or other negotiable or commercial paper, be treated and considered as is the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, and all notes, drafts, checks, or other commercial or negotiable paper falling due or maturing on either of said holidays shall be deemed as having matured on the day previous. APPROVED, June 28, 1870 by President Ulysses S. Grant. “Congress officially recognized Christmas as a legal holiday [on June 28] 1870 … after 33 states had already done so.”
Alabama led the movement in 1836, becoming the first state to designate Christmas as a public holiday.
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