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Optional Holiday

Optional holidays are non-working days that some countries offer to citizens of a particular religious, cultural, demographic, or employment group to celebrate or commemorate a special day.

Rakshabandhan or Rakhi is an optional holiday for government employees in India.


What Are Optional Holidays?

Most countries have public holidays for every citizen and local holidays celebrated in a certain state or city. Some countries, like India and Nepal, offer a third category: Optional holidays are holidays for a group of citizens, like members of a certain religion.

Nepal, a majority Hindu country, has days off for its Muslim population; women also get days off so they can take the time to perform certain religious rituals.

In many countries, optional holidays are encoded in the labor or public holiday law. Some, however, announce optional holidays on a discretionary basis.

Most Businesses Are Open

Optional holidays are for employees and people belonging to specific groups only, so most businesses, schools, and public sector enterprises tend to remain open. Some minority-owned businesses may be closed or have reduced opening hours.

At timeanddate.com, we use “optional holiday” as an umbrella term for holidays sharing the characteristics described on this page. Locally used names may vary.

Restricted Holidays in India

India has a unique public holiday system. Next to national holidays (called gazetted holidays) and local/state holidays, India also offers optional holidays to all employees of its central government.

These holidays for government employees are restricted to a list of possible dates: Employees can select two dates per year when they want to take a day off from work. The central government releases its list of restricted holidays every year. Some local governments follow a similar rule.

Floating Holidays

Floating holidays are slightly different from optional holidays—they are usually days off in some private and public enterprises that are in addition to paid time off and public holidays. Employees may get several floating holidays, and they can choose when and how to take those days off.