Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King, Jr.(L) and fellow civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1964 AFP

January 15, 2024, is a holiday in the United States as the country celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. day. The date is not set, but it is the third Monday of January so as to create a long weekend close to the moment in he was born in 1929. This year, however, the holiday will actually fall on his birthday.

The U.S. Department of State recalls that it took 15 years since his assassination to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a holiday honoring his work to advance civil rights.

Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, was the first to introduce a bill with this purpose four days after his murder in 1968. After failing to become a law, many petitions backing the proposal were sent to Congress even including the names of six million people.

Conyers and Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, kept introducing such a bill every year Congress went into session. In 1983, after civil rights marches put on even more public pressure on Washington , the bill was finally passed and signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan.

The U.S. government website adds that thousands of people across the country take advantage of this day to give back to their communities, "like King did back in his day." "For example, volunteering, taking part in events and marches."

After Martin Luther King Jr. day, the following holiday in the U.S. will take place on February 19, when when Presidents' Day Holiday is observed. After that there will be a large, three-month gap without holidays until May 27, when memorial day is celebrated in the country.

Overall, there be 11 national holidays in the United States this year. According to federal regulations, when a national holiday falls on a Saturday, it will be observed on the preceding Friday, and if it falls on a Sunday, it will be observed on the following Monday.

When it comes to public holidays, the U.S. isn't exactly topping the charts. The United States has one of the lowest numbers of public holidays when compared to Latin American countries, ranking only higher than Mexico (7), Nicaragua (9), and Bolivia (10).

Venezuela takes the lead for the most holidays in Latin America in 2024, boasting a total of 21. Following closely are Chile with 20 and Colombia with 18.

Now, before 2020, the U.S. national holidays were only 10. That changed in 2021, when Congress sanctioned and President Joe Biden enacted Juneteenth Day as the 11th federal holiday on the calendar.

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