Article before holiday name [e.g., on <a?> Labour Day]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Kika_PL, May 23, 2015.

  1. Kika_PL Member


    could anyone shed some light on the topic of using articles before holiday names? I've come up with 3 ways of dealing with that but it's still confusing. Here they are:

    1) no article - many holiday names don't take articles (e.g. Christmas)
    2) indefinite article - about holidays in general
    3) definite article - specific holidays

    How can I be sure with which holiday names I should use no article or indefinite article (the definite article usage seems quite obvious)?

    Should I say:
    I took a day off on a Labour Day or I took a day off on Labour Day?
    We go to cemetries on an All Saints' Day or We go to cemetries on All Saints' Day?

    I'm sorry to bother you, but those articles are so problematic.
  2. Florentia52

    Florentia52 Modwoman in the attic

    English - United States
    I wouldn't use the indefinite article in any case.

    When trying to convey the idea that I can't remember which particular Labor Day or All Saints' Day it was. I'd probably use "one," as in:

    "One Labour Day -- maybe in 1993 or 1994 -- my sister fell off the barn roof and broke her arm."
  3. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    In AE, generally speaking, there is no definite article before the name of a holiday. Offhand, the only exception I can think of is Independence Day, which is also known as the Fourth of July (that's the date on which it falls) and the latter (but only the latter) does use the definite article.

    We do use the definite article when we use the holiday as an adjective, for example: the Christmas season, the Memorial Day weekend (which happens to be this weekend).
  4. Kika_PL Member

    So, would you say that "a Labour Day" is incorrect?
  5. Kika_PL Member

    That's interesting, Parla. Thank you. But what about indefinite articles? I am surprised that they shouldn't be used. Would you say that we don't use articles before holiday names at all?
  6. DonnyB

    DonnyB Sixties Mod

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Generally we don't, but I could say for example:
    "I remember a Boxing Day some years ago when ... [something happened]."
  7. Kika_PL Member

    DonnyB, is it because holiday names are treated as proper names? And why is there an indefinite article in your example?
  8. DonnyB

    DonnyB Sixties Mod

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes: holiday names, particularly those which are religious festivals, are treated as proper names and have capitals.

    I used the indefinite article in my example because I was referring to one of a series of Boxing Days (which occur every year) and the inference is that I wasn't sure which one.
  9. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    In which case the article actually goes with the noun, not with the name of the holiday.
  10. Kika_PL Member

    So "the" refers here to "season/weekend" - that's quite clear. Thank you.
  11. Kika_PL Member

    DonnyB, so if I know which day I'm talking about, I don't use any article: I took a day off on Labour Day. (I mean the Labour Day that we had recently).

    But it makes me think that if I know about which day I'm talking about I should use a definite article instead: I took a day off on the Labour Day.

    Sorry, but I still don't understand.
  12. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    There are several proper nouns ( which by nature are definite) that don't take any articles before them, for examples the names of days, months, lakes, national parks and festivals. The day in Labour Day is not a common noun, but a part of the proper noun 'Labour Day' (note the capital D). I hope it helps.
  13. Kika_PL Member

    Yes, I understand that. Thank you. But DonnyB used an indefinite article in his example: I remember a Boxing Day when...So should I understand it like that:
    - we don't use articles before names of holidays because they are proper nouns (there are few exceptions as the Fourth of July)
    - we use indefinite articles before holiday names if we don't have any specific holiday in mind
    - we use definite articles when we treat holiday names as adjectives (the Christmas season)

    Have I understood it correctly?
  14. Englishmypassion

    Englishmypassion Senior Member

    India - Hindi
    Yes, you've got it right. I think your second point covers DonnyB's example of 'a Labour Day', doesn't it? It's something like this: I don't remember the date but it was a Monday when I first...
  15. Kika_PL Member

    I'm glad to "hear" that, Englishismypassion. I hope I'll use it correctly now;] Thank you!
  16. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Visit me on a Friday.

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