I have tried to find whether any European country has recently (in the past 30 years or so) scrapped a national free day or similar. The closest I could get is the idea of replacing/moving a bank holiday, so no actual reduction.

I am aware that reducing the number of bank holidays is most likely unpopular, but this does not exclude the possibility of it actually happening.

Question: Has any European country recently scrapped a bank/public holiday?

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    Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/18745/… Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 20:00
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    Although not a holiday, many German employees give an extra paid day off so people can prepare for carneval. This year it did not happen.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 9:38
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    @gerrit German employers? or employee's actually give up a day?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 15:22
  • @gerrit many in the far west of Germany, maybe. Noone prepares for carnival. They take off carnival monday. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 22:49
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    I meant to write "many employers give an extra paid day off", but I'm not sure if it's actually many as my sample is small and not representative.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 9:13

7 Answers 7


I'm aware of a few examples, in France, Portugal & Austria.

In 2004, in France, Pentecost Monday was removed as a public holiday and replaced from 2005 with 'La journée de solidarité' - 'Solidarity Day', where workers attend work as usual, but work for free. Their wages go instead to a fund to be spent on the elderly and disabled. This decision was taken in response to the 2003 heatwave, which killed almost 15,000 elderly people in France. In 2008, the reference to Pentecost Monday was removed from the law, and Solidarity Day can now be taken on any public holiday throughout the year, although many employees still observe it on that day.

In 2012, Portugal's coalition government between PSD and CDS-PP, led by Pedro Passos Coelho, scrapped four public holidays. These were two religious; All Saints' Day (Nov 1st) and Corpus Christi (variable), and two civil; Republic Day (Oct 5th) and Restoration of Independence Day (Dec 1st). This was fairly unpopular, and came as part of a package of measures designed to increase productivity in the context of the Portuguese financial crisis.

The holidays were planned to be suspended for five years, but were restored in January 2016 under the leadership of António Costa.

Finally, in 2019, the European Court of Justice ruled that Austria's practice of granting only members of certain churches a public holiday on Good Friday was discriminatory. As a result, Good Friday was scrapped as a federal public holiday altogether, and replaced with the ability for all employees to unilaterally choose a date to take one of their personal holiday days at any point during the year - as opposed to having to obtain their employers' permission (§7a. Arbeitsruhegesetz).

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    I wonder how many days French employees will now have to work for free (and for how long) to atone for the COVID deaths?
    – davidbak
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 17:49
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    @davidbak depending on the meaning of “atone” somewhere around 10 days.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 19:43
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    Note: The personal holiday does count as vaccation time (paid time off). The only difference to regular vaccation days is, that the employer can't refuse.
    – raznagul
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 14:05
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    That is a kind of odd way of doing things. You could just raise taxes by 0.3% or so and put the money in a fund for people with disabilities and the elderly, which amounts to the same thing, but instead you tell people that they must work for nothing on one day. Because apparently a tax would be too unpopular, but everyone likes working for nothing?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 4:14
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    Re: the French scrapped day. We have never seen any tangible effect of this new tax and it is money that is poured anywhere. The sugar coating of Solidarité is infuriating. The wages of this day are sent to the government and companies may allow employees not to come. Of course private companies usually make us come, and public ones usually do not care and leave the day off (source: plenty of friends here and there and systematically ones are off and the others not). It is a horribly dumb decision.
    – WoJ
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 13:43

In 1994 Germany abandoned the "Buß- und Bettag" as a public holiday (an additional working day was supposed to provide the funds for the new nursing insurance. Buß- und Bettag is still a holiday in the state of Saxony, so employees pay a slightly higher contribution to the nursing insurance. Also it is still a church holiday, so you are entitled to a day of unpaid leave should you chose so).

  • German public holidays vary by Land. Buß- und Bettag tends to be in mainly Protestant areas, while Catholic holy days tend to be in mainly Catholic areas. There are too many to list here, but, e.g. Assumption of Maria is a holiday only in Bavaria.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 7:13
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    @RedSonja, we do have federal holidays, and Buß and Bettag used to be one of them. So up until 1994 that holiday was neither limited to protestant areas nor was it a state matter - states may add additional holidays but they cannot revoke federal holidays (a.k.a "Bundesrecht bricht Landesrecht"). Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 8:50
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    @EikePierstorff There is actually only one federal holiday which remains: October 3rd, German Unity Day. All other holidays are state holidays. Some are holidays in all states, but if any state would no longer want, say, Christmas to be a holiday, they would be free to decree that by state-law.
    – Philipp
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 9:59
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    @Philipp, true, the others (Christmas, Easter, New Year) are just "bundeseinheitliche Feiertage" (holidays at state level that nonetheless exist in every state), so that's easy to confuse even after a lifetime of being German :-) Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 10:03
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    One may argue whether June 17th and October 7th were scrapped or moved to October 3rd for West and East Germany, respectively with the reunification Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 13:37

In Sweden 2005 "Annandag pingst" (Second day of Pentecost ? ) was scrapped. Of course in the same year 6th of June became the national day so the sum of holidays stayed about the same.

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    This was mostly a replacement, but since Pentecost Monday was always on a Monday while June 6 is sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday, employees get one day less off on average 2 years out of 7.
    – jkej
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 19:49
  • @jkej Many (or most?) unions have negotiated an extra day off in those cases. A more complicated issue is that many in Sweden normally bridge-days so if the 6th of June is on a Thursday as in 2019 the Friday is often off. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 10:51
  • Ah, we have that in Germany too. Ascension and Corpus Christi are always on Thursday so we get the Friday as well. (Get? we have to take a day's holiday.)
    – RedSonja
    Commented Apr 12, 2021 at 13:22

In Hungary after the end of the Communist rule in 1990 (or 1991?) 4th April ("Liberation day") and 7th November (the Communist "October revolution" in Russia) were scrapped. Instead, 15th March and 23rd October (the days of the 1848 and 1956 revolutions) were introduced.

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    More of a replacement that I think most ex-communist countries observed.
    – Alexei
    Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 15:03

Slovenia removed 2nd January as a holiday in 2012. It was intended to be a temporary change (one of the anti-crisis measures), and communicated as "nobody else has that holiday anyway", but it was still a fairly unpopular move at that time. It was reinstated as a holiday in 2016 because a new government decided country recovered enough. So, there were 4 years without that holiday (2013-2016).

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    “Nobody else has that holiday” wasn’t true. 2 January is a public holiday in Scotland.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 16:49
  • @MikeScott I think that by "nobody" (somebody else) they actually meant the Western Europe countries. Romania also has January 2nd as a public holiday (too tired after the New Year party to work so soon :) ).
    – Alexei
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 15:35
  • @Alexei The last time I checked, Scotland was in Western Europe.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 18:00

Ukraine has cancelled some public holidays during the decommunization process in 2000-2017. Wikipedia has more details on it, but here's the short list:

  • February 23rd, Defender of the Fatherland Day
  • May 2nd, Day of International Workers' Solidarity
  • November 7th, Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution
  • November 22nd, Freedom Day

Austria recently scrapped Good Friday, which was a public holiday only for members of certain churches.

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    CDJB's answer include this one and it was actually replaced with the ability for all employees to unilaterally choose one personal holiday day at any point during the year
    – Alexei
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 10:56
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    @Alexei well, kind-of replaced. But this "personal holiday" is then deducted from the number of days of paid leave the employee is entitled to. Basically, it is just one out of the typically 25 (sometimes more) days off, and the only difference is that the employer can't say no quite as easily to the choice of date (if it is announced sufficiently in advanced by the employee). It is hardly used at all in practice (German language newspaper article in derStandard from 2019).
    – Hulk
    Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 7:32

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