New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day, Presidents’ Day: Apostrophes in Names of Holidays

Summary

When the name of a holiday, festival, or other special day contains a singular possessive noun, use an apostrophe before the s.

Examples
  • Mother’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Queen’s Birthday

Place an apostrophe after the s when the name of a day has a plural possessive.

Examples
  • Parents’ Day
  • All Saints’ Day

When a day is named after an irregular plural, add an apostrophe and s to form the possessive.

Examples
  • Women’s Day
  • Children’s Day

But don’t use an apostrophe if the name of a holiday is a descriptive term rather than a possessive.

Examples
  • Veterans Day
  • Civil Rights Day

Whether to use an apostrophe in the name of a day can be a matter of style rather than grammar. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends using an apostrophe after the s in Presidents’ Day, as does Merriam Webster; the AP Stylebook suggests omitting the apostrophe altogether.

Examples
  • Chicago style: Presidents’ Day
  • AP style: Presidents Day

What is an apostrophe?

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to form a possessive or to indicate contraction, or the omission of letters or numbers.

Examples
  • Possessive: My mother’s aunt is a mathematician.
    mother’s aunt = the aunt of my mother
  • Contraction: My mother’s a mathematician.
    mother’s = mother is

Very rarely, an apostrophe is used to form a plural, but only when not using one would result in confusion.

Example
  • There are two a’s in albatross.
    Without the apostrophe, it would read as the word as: “two as in albatross.”

The general rule

In names of holidays, festivals, and other special days, an apostrophe is used to indicate the possessive of a singular or a plural noun (Mother’s Day or All Souls’ Day), or of a proper noun (St. Patrick’s Day). But if a noun is used attributively—which means it is a descriptive term rather than a possessive—the apostrophe is omitted (Christmas Day).

Examples
  • Possessive: Lincoln’s Birthday
    Descriptive: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Possessive: New Year’s Eve
    Descriptive: Midsummer Eve
  • Possessive: Women’s Day
    Descriptive: Human Rights Day
Note

Whether the name of a holiday is considered possessive or descriptive (Presidents’ Day or Presidents Day) or even singular or plural (Worker’s Day or Workers’ Day) is often a matter of style rather than grammar. In this article, we discuss general guidelines based on accepted conventions. As an editor, respect the house style of your client’s publisher, university, or other organization.

Apostrophe before s

In names of holidays, apostrophes are used with singular possessive nouns, like Mother’s Day or New Year’s Day. Note that the apostrophe comes before and not after the s, since it is used to form the possessive of a singular noun.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Mothers Day
    Incorrect: Mothers’ Day
    Correct: Mother’s Day
    mother’s = possessive of singular (apostrophe before s)
  • Incorrect: New Years Day
    Incorrect: New Years’ Day
    Correct: New Year’s Day
  • Incorrect: Valentines Day
    Incorrect: Valentines’ Day
    Correct: Valentine’s Day
Caution

Although the day is called New Year’s Day, the greeting does not contain an apostrophe: it’s “Happy New Year,” not “Happy New Year’s.”

Examples
  • Incorrect: Happy New Year’s!
    Correct: Happy New Year!
  • Incorrect: We met on New Years Day.
    Correct: We met on New Year’s Day.

An apostrophe is also placed before s when the name of a holiday contains an irregular plural like women. (An irregular plural doesn’t end in s.)

Example
  • Incorrect: International Womens Day
    Incorrect: International Womens’ Day
    Correct: International Women’s Day
    women’s = possessive of irregular plural (apostrophe before s)

Here is a list of holidays, festivals, and other special days with an apostrophe before s.

Examples
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • New Year’s Day
  • International Women’s Day
  • Children’s Day
  • Women’s History Month
  • St. Joseph’s Feast Day
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • St. David’s Day
  • St. Andrew’s Day
  • St. George’s Day
  • Valentine’s Day (or St. Valentine’s Day)
  • Queen’s Birthday
  • King’s Day
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Lincoln’s Birthday
Tip

A standard dictionary can tell you how to spell a holiday. For instance, Merriam-Webster and Oxford have entries for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and New Year’s Eve.

Apostrophe after s

When names of holidays are formed using plural possessives, insert the apostrophe after the plural.

Examples
  • Incorrect: All Saints Day
    Incorrect: All Saint’s Day
    Correct: All Saints’ Day
    saints’ = possessive of regular plural (apostrophe after s)
  • Incorrect: Teachers Day
    Incorrect: Teacher’s Day
    Correct: Teachers’ Day

Here is a list with names of holidays with plural forms ending in s, where the apostrophe appears after the s.

Examples
  • Presidents’ Day
  • All Hallows’ Eve
  • All Saints’ Day
  • All Souls’ Day
  • All Fools’ Day
  • April Fools’ Day (also April Fool’s Day)
  • Parents’ Day
  • Patriots’ Day
  • Martyrs’ Day
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Day
  • Doctors’ Day
  • Teachers’ Day
  • Founders’ Day
Note

Presidents’ Day can be written with or without an apostrophe: Some style guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style, suggest placing an apostrophe after the s, as do Merriam-Webster and Oxford. Others, like the AP Stylebook, consider presidents a descriptive word rather than a possessive, and suggest omitting the apostrophe altogether.

Example
  • Correct: Chicago: Presidents’ Day
    Correct: AP: Presidents Day

Similarly, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is written with the apostrophe in Chicago style and without the apostrophe in AP style.

Example
  • Correct: Chicago: Indigenous Peoples’ Day
    Correct: AP: Indigenous Peoples Day

If a holiday is official in a state or nation, follow that territory’s official style.

Names of holidays like Founders’ Day may be spelled with the apostrophe before or after the s: an institution or nation may prefer Founder’s Day if there was only one founder.

No apostrophe

When the name of a holiday is a descriptive word or phrase rather than a possessive, don’t use an apostrophe.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Christmas’ Day
    Correct: Christmas Day
  • Incorrect: Veterans’ Day
    Incorrect: Veteran’s Day
    Correct: Veterans Day
Caution

Don’t use an apostrophe in Veterans Day. Dictionaries and style manuals all agree on omitting the apostrophe. Think of it as a day for veterans rather than of veterans: a descriptive term rather than a possessive.

Holidays named after people also generally don’t have an apostrophe, unless it is a birthday.

Examples
  • Incorrect: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day
    Correct: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
    descriptive: not a day of Martin Luther King Jr. but a day to honor him
  • but
  • Incorrect: Lincoln Birthday
    Correct: Lincoln’s Birthday
    possessive: the birthday of Lincoln
Tip

Holidays with names that end in s but don’t take an apostrophe can be particularly confusing. Think of whether the name is used in the possessive case: Queen’s Birthday is a possessive; Guy Fawkes Day and Rosa Parks Day are not.

In names of days based on seasons or astronomical and meteorological events, no apostrophe is necessary.

Example
  • Incorrect: summer’s solstice
    Correct: summer solstice

Here is a list of holidays, festivals, and special days that are not considered possessive terms and don’t take an apostrophe.

Examples
  • Independence Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Labor Day
  • Human Rights Day
  • Civil Rights Day
  • Bill of Rights Day
  • National Cancer Survivors Day
  • May Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Christmas Eve
  • Midsummer Day
  • Midsummer Eve
  • Midsummer Night
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Guy Fawkes Day
  • Rosa Parks Day
  • Daisy Bates Day
  • Burns Night
  • spring equinox
  • vernal equinox
  • autumnal equinox
  • summer solstice
  • winter solstice

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Did You Know?

Something and anything convey different meanings.
Know more:Something vs. Anything, Someone vs. Anyone