The 20 Countries with the Most and Least Public Holidays

Find out which countries boast the highest number of public holidays in the world and which ones offer the least!

Calendar with circled dates marking bank holidays

Countries celebrate national holidays for many different reasons, including religious observances, national days, remembrance days or days to commemorate some other special historical event unique to a certain state, country, or region.

Public holidays are usually marked in national law and are set as non-working days (although it is commonplace for people to work on these days, often receiving a day off in lieu at some other point in the year).

There is a wide disparity in the number of public holidays observed by different countries and if you are planning to relocate overseas for work, it might be worth looking into this topic. This article will take you through the countries with the most public holidays and those with the least. 

The 10 countries with the most public holidays

Here is a list of the countries that offer their residents the most public holidays (the list excludes non-regular special holidays):

1. Myanmar

Number of public holidays: 32

Myanmar’s multicultural makeup helps it secure the top spot on this list. There are numerous religious public holidays, such as the Start of Buddhist Lent (date varies), Christmas (25th December), Eid-ul-Adha (date varies) and Diwali (date varies), as well as historic days such as Independence Day (4th January) and Resistance Day (27th March). 

2. Nepal

Number of public holidays: 30

Along with an impressive number of public holidays, Nepal also has a standard six-day working week. Like Myanmar, Nepal’s diverse culture contributes to the country’s many different religious and non-religious public holidays. These include New Year’s Day (14th April), Holi (date varies), Constitution Day (19th September), Bijaya Dashami (date varies; a significant event in Nepalese-Hindu calendar), and Nari Diwas (a local version of international women’s day, celebrated by women only on 8th March).

3. Iran

Number of public holidays: 26

Iran has a complex public holiday system, with many ‘unofficial’ public holidays added each year leading to the annual total reaching beyond 26. The vast majority of Iran’s public holidays are based on important days and events in the Islamic calendar while other public holidays include Islamic Republic Day, the anniversary of the Islamic revolution, and the nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry. 

Because Iran uses both the solar and lunar Hijri calendars, there are few set dates for their public holidays.

4. Sri Lanka

Number of public holidays: 25

Sri Lanka celebrates a wide variety of religious holidays but also has many interconnecting holidays that are specific to the country. For example, Bak Full Moon Poya Day (April) commemorates the second visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lankan New Year is celebrated on the 13 and 14 April.

5. Malaysia

Number of public holidays: 23-25 (depending on the state)

Public holidays in Malaysia are largely secular and reflect the presence of a wide variety of religions and cultures present within the country. There are certain public holidays specific to certain states, such as Thaipusam Full Moon (January or February) while federal holidays are celebrated across the country and include Chinese New Year (January or February), Labour Day (1st May), and Malaysia Day on 16th September.  

6. Bangladesh

Number of public holidays: 22

Bangladeshi public holidays are observed for various religious festivals; four for Islamic holidays, two for Hindu holidays, and one each for Buddhist and Christian holidays. In addition to this, there are various national holidays, including Language Martyr’s Day (21st February) and National Mourning Day on 15th August.

7. Egypt

Number of public holidays: 22

Public holidays in Egypt are quite complex. For example, some services such as hairdressers will close on a Monday rather than the actual day of the specific public holiday. The public holiday calendar is a mix of religious and non-secular days and are observed according to both the fixed Gregorian calendar and the varying dates of the Islamic lunar calendar. One recent  addition to Egypt's public holiday roster is Revolution Day (25th January) that was introduced after the public uprisings of 2011.

8. Cambodia

Number of public holidays: 21

The vast majority of Cambodia’s public holiday calendar is connected to Buddhist observances, usually in line with the Khmer lunar calendar (but the solar year is used too). This means that the dates of many Cambodian national holidays vary each year. Other national observances include commemorating the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 on 7th January, and the signing of the Cambodian constitution on 24th September.

9. India

Number of public holidays: 21

The sheer size of India and its extensive history has led to a vast array of public holidays being observed.  Many public holidays are based on various religious festivals (including ones from Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and Christianity).  Despite the prevalence of public holidays in this regard, there are only three national holidays: Republic Day on 26 January, Independence Day on 15 August, and Gandhi Jayanti (Gandhi’s birthday) on 2 October.

10. Liechtenstein

Number of public holidays: 20-22 (two are not recognised officially)

This tiny European country has plenty of public holidays! Many of Liechtenstein's public holidays are based around Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas. There are some lesser-known public holidays such as Whit Monday (June) and Mary’s Birth (September).

There are also two public holidays which are marked as such on calendars, but are not legally recognised. These are Shrove Tuesday (sometimes referred to as “Pancake Day”) and Saint Berchtold’s Day, on 2 January. While not official public holidays, but most businesses and organisations treat them as such, closing down for the day and giving their employees the day off.

The 10 countries with the fewest public holidays

Here is a list of the countries with the fewest public holidays (list excludes non-regular special holidays):

1. Switzerland

Number of public holidays: 7-15 depending on the canton

With the exception of Ascension Day on 26 May, the Swiss National Day on 1 August,  Christmas and New Year’s Day, each canton in Switzerland sets their public holidays separately. Some cantons such as Fribourg or Lucerne offer fifteen days, while others, such as Vaud or Valais, offer only seven. In general, public holidays revolve around Christian holidays, but there are also canton-specific festivals observed, too.

2. Mexico

Number of public holidays: 8

Mexico offers statutory holidays, civic holidays and festivities, but only the former are recognised officially as public holidays. Statutory holidays include Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as well as Mexican celebrations like Benito Juárez’s birthday on 21 March and Revolution Day on 20 November.

3. Ecuador

Number of public holidays: 8-9 depending on the city

Ecuador's public holidays may not be plentiful, but they are focused on the country's deep sense of national pride. Alongside Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s Day, Ecuadorian public holidays celebrate national events such as the Battle of Pichincha around 24 May, the Independence of Guayaquil on 9 October, and the Independence of Cuenca around 3 November.

4. United Kingdom

Number of public holidays: 8 for England, Scotland and Wales, 10 for Northern Ireland

The UK celebrates Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas (as well as Boxing Day on 26 December), as well as New Year's Day, two bank holidays in May, and one more in August. If the Christmas holidays fall on a weekend, placeholder public holidays are held on the 27 and/or 28 December as needed. Northern Ireland also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March and the Battle of the Boyne in mid-July.

5. Canada

Number of public holidays: 8-12 depending on the province

There are only five nationwide statutory holidays in Canada: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Canada Day (1 July), Labour Day (the first Monday of September) and Christmas Day. After this, each province nominates a certain number of holidays. Manitoba and Quebec have the fewest nominated days, with three public holidays each.

6. Brazil

Number of public holidays: 9

Brazil observes a multitude of religious and ethnic holidays, but only has nine public holidays. These include the anniversary of the death of Tiradentes on 21 April, Independence Day on 7 September, and Republic Day on 15 November. Public holidays are also declared when there is a general election every two years.

7. Taiwan

Number of public holidays: 9

Aside from New Year’s Day and Chinese New Year, many Taiwanese public holidays are specific only for this island nation. These include Founding Day of the Republic of China (also on 1 January), Peace Memorial Day (28 February), the Dragon Boat Festival (3 June) and National Day on 10 October.

8. Belgium

Number of public holidays: 10

Belgium celebrates plenty of special days, but only ten are offered as public holidays with a statutory right to a day off work. These are heavily based around Christian festivals, but also include Labour Day on 1 May, National Day on 21 June, and Armistice Day on 11 November.

9. Estonia

Number of public holidays: 10

Estonia's holiday calendar differentiates between public holidays that offer a day off and national holidays which are not eligible for a day off work. National holidays are based around the major Christian festivals, but also include Independence Day on 24 February, Victory Day on 23 June, Midsummer on 24 June, and Independence Restoration Day on 20 August.

10. Republic of Ireland

Number of public holidays: 10

Ireland's public holidays include New Year’s Day, Christmas and Easter Monday. There are also several specific days that are celebrated in this country alone. These include St. Patrick’s Day on 17th March (also Ireland’s National Day), the June Holiday (the first Monday of June), the August Holiday (the first Monday of August), and the October Holiday (the last Monday of October).

Final thoughts

When it comes to celebrating public holidays, no two countries do the same thing. While some countries are extremely generous with their public holidays, even those that offer far less have plenty of other festivals and special days that many companies choose to recognise and offer to their employees as a day off. If you are hoping to work abroad, knowing about these holidays will allow you to immerse yourself in your host country and plan your year around them.

 

This article was originally published on May 31, 2015.