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Juneteenth is now a state and national holiday. What does that mean?

What’s open, who’s working, and how best to celebrate America’s newest holiday

Paige Academy Drummers performed during a flag raising to commemorate Juneteenth at the State House on Wednesday.Christiana Botic for The Boston Globe

Saturday will mark Massachusetts’ first official celebration of Juneteenth, and on Thursday, President Biden signed a bill that also makes June 19 the country’s newest federal holiday (although the national celebration won’t take full effect until 2022.) Here’s a quick rundown of how the holiday will affect your work week, what will and won’t be open this year, and how best to celebrate:

Do I have the day off?

It depends.

Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year. Under state law, a legal holiday that falls on a Saturday is still observed on Saturday, while Sunday holidays are observed the following Monday. However, state legislature employees had Friday, June 18, off, as did most federal workers, according to a tweet from the US Office of Personnel Management. Meanwhile, executive branch employees in Massachusetts can choose to take off either Friday or Monday.


For municipal employees in Massachusetts, it is up to local government to determine whether employees get to take a holiday. Springfield City Council was one of several municipal governments to recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday, granting city workers a paid day off.

Last summer, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education also updated its school calendar to include Juneteenth, meaning that public school students and employees at schools still in session will get the day off, too. Local school districts can also decide to give students an extra day of vacation on Friday or Monday on years when the holiday falls on a weekend.

As for the private sector, you’ll probably still be required to go into work if you’re normally scheduled on Saturdays. However, each company has its own policy, and many businesses in the state (particularly those that are Black-owned) are giving employees the day off in honor of the celebration. Lyft, Nike, Zillow, and T-Mobile are among the larger US corporations to declare Juneteenth a paid holiday this year. You can see a list here, compiled by the Black-owned initiative HellaCreative.


Essential workers, of course, remain essential. While most companies have policies that pay employees time-and-a-half for working on a federal holiday, Juneteenth is a fairly new celebration and rules have yet to be set. After Biden’s declaration, a number of companies announced that they would pay their hourly employees extra for working on Saturday, including Starbucks, Best Buy, and Target.

Can I go to the bank?

Although many banks in Massachusetts are closed on Saturday anyway, branches that are usually open on the weekend won’t close their doors to customers this year. Banks aren’t required to adopt all federal holidays, though they typically do, and given that Juneteenth is now a national celebration, it’s possible that banks will be closed on Monday, June 20 in 2022 (since the holiday will fall on a Sunday next year).

Stock and bond markets remained open on Friday, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will partner with the financial industry to determine whether to close for Juneteenth next year.

What about the post office?

As a federal organization, the US Post Office typically closes for all federal holidays. However, the Post Office said in a statement that while it “is fully supportive of the new Juneteenth National Independence Day Act and making June 19 a federal holiday,” it would continue to deliver mail this Friday and Saturday. Given the timing of the new celebration, the Post Office explained that “it is not possible to cease the operations of the Postal Service to accommodate an observance over the next 24-48 hours.”


Is this like Independence Day? How should I celebrate?

Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day, but it’s celebrated differently than the Fourth of July. The holiday, which began in Texas, commemorates the emancipation of formerly enslaved African Americans after the Civil War, and marks the day in 1865 — two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — when Union Army troops announced to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were free.

In the South, it’s common for people to celebrate with music, barbecues, and family reunions. But in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, many individuals and organizations have opted to use Juneteenth as a day of reflection and conversation about racial justice. Communities around the state are gathering for picnics, performances, and panels, but ultimately, how you choose to celebrate on Saturday is up to you.

Is this holiday just for African Americans?

Nope. While Juneteenth is fundamentally a celebration of Black liberation, it is a state and national holiday intended to be accessible to everyone in the state and in the nation. In his proclamation marking June 19 as Juneteenth Independence Day, Gov. Baker called Juneteenth a day when “people of all races, nationalities and religions join hands to acknowledge the painful history and lasting, systemic impact of racial justice in the United States.”


In his official statement declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday, President Biden also said that “by making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with . . . the distance we have to travel.”

I don’t live in Massachusetts. Can I still celebrate Juneteenth this year?

Absolutely. According to a fact sheet published earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service, Juneteenth is also recognized as an official state holiday in Texas, New York, Virginia, and Washington, and is commemorated in some way by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to its recent status as a federal holiday. This weekend, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Juneteenth in Boston, in New England, or wherever you are.

Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.