20 Countries with the Most and Least Public Holidays

The generous and the stingy.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Calendar marking bank/public holidays for countries

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 the 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 higher hourly rate or an extra day off instead).

There is a wide disparity in the number of public holidays observed by different countries, and if you’re 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.

10 countries with the most public holidays

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

1. Myanmar

Myanmar public holidayBeyond Boundaries Myanmar (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 32

Myanmar’s multicultural make-up helps it secure the top spot on this list: it not only has the most public holidays out of any country in Asia, but also in the world! The Southeast Asian nation’s population of 53 million consists of over 130 ethnic groups that collectively speak more than 100 languages.

There are numerous religious public holidays, such as the Start of Buddhist Lent (date varies), Christmas Day (December 25), Eid-ul-Adha (date varies) and Diwali (date varies), as well as historic days such as Independence Day (January 4) and Resistance Day (March 24).

2. Nepal

Tibetan Buddhist celebration and national holiday in NepalWonderlane (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 30

Like Myanmar, Nepal’s diverse culture contributes to the country’s many different religious and non-religious public holidays: its population of 30 million people consists of Hindus, who make up the majority, but also Buddhists, Muslims, Kirati and Christians.

Some of its most prominent holidays include New Year’s Day (April14 ), Holi (date varies), Constitution Day (September 19), 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 March 8).

Along with its impressive number of public holidays, however, Nepal has a standard six-day working week, with most public and private businesses closing only on Saturdays.

3. Iran

Iran, Naqsh-e Yahan on public holidayRubén Pérez Planillo (flickr)

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 nationalization 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

Mirissa Beach holiday in Sri LankaHeather Cowper (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 25

With a population of 22 million, Sri Lanka is home to various languages, cultures and ethnicities. As far as religions go, the majority of the people in the teardrop-shaped country are Buddhist, with the remainder being split fairly equally across the Hindu, Muslim and Christian faiths.

As such, many of Sri Lanka’s public holidays are religious, including Christmas, Diwali and Poya Days, which are monthly Buddhist holidays celebrated on each full moon. Another major holiday in the nation is Independence Day, commemorating Sri Lanka’s independence from British colonial rule.

5. Malaysia

Malaysia national holiday in MelakaMohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi (flickr)

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. Like Sri Lanka’s, Malaysia’s population consists of Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

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), Labor Day (May 1) and Malaysia Day (September 16).

6. Bangladesh

International WomenUN Women (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 22

Bangladesh is another nation with numerous public holidays, which include national memorial, secular and religious observances.

Secular public holidays which are observed both by the Muslim majority and the non-Muslim populations include Independence Day on March 26, Bengali New Year’s Day on April 14, and May Day, which, of course, is celebrated in more than 160 countries in the world.

7. Egypt

Holiday in Luxor, EgyptElias Rovielo (flickr)

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 secular days, which 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 (January 25), which was introduced after the public uprisings of 2011.

8. Cambodia

Cambodia holidayTed McGrath (flickr)

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 January 7, and the signing of the Cambodian constitution on September 24.

9. India

Kumbh Mela 2019 public holiday in IndiaNinara (flickr)

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 January 26, Independence Day on August 15, and Gandhi Jayanti (Gandhi’s birthday) on 2 October.

10. Liechtenstein

National day in Staatsfeiertag, LiechtensteinHellebardius (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 20–22 (two are not recognized 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 recognized. These are Shrove Tuesday (sometimes referred to as Pancake Day) and Saint Berchtold’s Day on January 2. While not official public holidays, most businesses and organizations treat them as such, closing down for the day and giving their employees the day off.

10 countries with the fewest public holidays

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

1. Switzerland

Swiss National Day TripFarrukh (flickr)

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

If you’re wondering which country has the least public holidays, it’s Switzerland. Not necessarily what you’d expect from one of the most powerful countries in Europe, right?

With the exception of Ascension Day on May 26, the Swiss National Day on August 1, Christmas and New Year’s Day, each canton in Switzerland sets their public holidays separately. Some cantons such as Fribourg or Lucerne offer 15 days, while others, such as Vaud or Valais, offer only 7.

In general, public holidays revolve around Christian holidays, but there are also canton-specific festivals observed, too.

2. Mexico

National Holiday in Mexico, Querétaro - Monumental AltarTed McGrath (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 8

Mexico offers statutory holidays, civic holidays and festivities, but only the former are recognized 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 March 21 and Revolution Day on November 20.

3. Ecuador

Christmas public holiday in Cuenca, EcuadorJoe Ross (flickr)

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 May 24, the Independence of Guayaquil on October 9, and the Independence of Cuenca around November 3.

4. United Kingdom

Bank holiday in Dorset, United Kingdomvelodenz (flickr)

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

Public holidays in the UK, which are commonly referred to as bank holidays locally, consist largely of religious observances — namely Easter and Christmas — even as, year by year, more and more Brits state that they do not belong to any religion.

The four countries that make up the sovereign state share holidays such as Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, while Scotland celebrates its own St Andrew’s Day, and Northern Ireland observes St Patrick’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne.

5. Canada

Canada Day public holiday in Ottawa¡Carlitos (flickr)

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 (July 1), Labor 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

Rio, Brazil Carnival holidayTerry George (flickr)

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 April 21, Independence Day on September 7, and Republic Day on November 15.

Public holidays are also declared when there is a general election every two years.

7. Taiwan

Dragon Boat Festival national holiday in Taiwan Kyle T. (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 9

Known officially as the Republic of China, Taiwan is a country in East Asia that has operated under a separate government to the one ruling mainland China (the People’s Republic of China) since the 1949 Chinese Civil War.

Its official public holidays include the Lunar New Year’s Day, Peace Memorial Day and Children’s Day, which was established in the name of upholding and protecting the human rights of children.

8. Belgium

Ghent public festivities, BelgiumVisitGent (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 10

Belgium: a nation in Western Europe that’s famous for its beer, chocolate and Renaissance architecture — but not for its ample public holidays. Generally, workers in Belgium enjoy 10 public holidays a year, although there are some additional celebrations for which some Belgian employers may award an extra day off.

Fixed public holidays include May Day, Belgian National Day, Assumption Day and All Saint’s Day.

9. Estonia

Tallinn Christmas Market and public holiday in EstoniaVisit Estonia (flickr)

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 February 24, Victory Day on June 23, Midsummer on June 24, and Independence Restoration Day on August 20.

10. Republic of Ireland

St. PatrickWilliam Murphy (flickr)

Number of public holidays: 10

Unlike Northern Ireland, which once had a unionist majority that wished to maintain its ties with Britain, Southern Ireland had an Irish nationalist majority that sought self-governance. That’s why the country was ultimately divided into two nations following the 1922 civil war.

Still, curiously, the Republic of Ireland doesn’t observe its “birthday” (December 6, the day on which the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed) as a public holiday. Instead, many of its bank holidays are religious, including Christmas Day, Easter Monday and St Stephen’s Day.

Final thoughts

When considering moving abroad for work, it might be tempting, even for a moment, to take into account the number of public holidays that you would potentially enjoy once you’ve relocated.

But whether your dream career path finds you a new home in Africa, Europe or even Antarctica (someone has to study those penguins!), what’s most important is that you’ve picked a role that you’re passionate about and an employer who can help fulfil your professional needs — be that a higher level of responsibility, ongoing learning or another goal you wish to achieve.

Have you ever worked in any of the countries mentioned on our list? Let us know in the comments section below!

Originally published on May 31, 2015. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.