A Word, Please: It’s the perfect time to learn how to write New Year’s and other holidays

Grammar columnist June Casagrande offers a primer on how to punctuate and capitalize holidays throughout the year.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

The new year is here. What better time to learn how to write New Year’s, as well as Presidents Day, Mother’s Day and a full 12 months’ worth of hard-to-write holidays? Here’s your guide to navigating the apostrophes, plurals and capitalization of holidays in 2022.

New Year’s/New Year/new year. When you’re talking about the holiday, New Year, always start with capital letters. “Happy New Year!” If you’re adding the s, put an apostrophe in front of it: “a New Year’s resolution.” When you’re talking in a generic sense about the coming year, lowercase it. “Wishing you health and happiness in the new year.”

New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. The Eve and the Day are part of the holidays’ proper names, so capitalize them.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The third Monday in January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is written without “Rev.” or “Dr.” in both Associated Press and Chicago editing styles. No commas needed around “Jr.”

Valentine’s Day. Singular possessive. If you’re talking about your sweetheart or a card you’re sending, you can lowercase the v: Be my valentine. I’m sending a valentine. You can also call the holiday Saint Valentine’s Day.

Presidents Day. There are several correct ways to write this holiday, which falls on the third Monday in February. AP style says no apostrophe: Presidents Day. Chicago style writes it as plural possessive, with the apostrophe after the s: Presidents’ Day. But the federal government and some states now call it Washington’s Birthday. Take your pick.

St. Patrick’s Day. This March 17 holiday is singular possessive, so the apostrophe goes before the s.

April Fools’ Day. Treat this one as plural possessive, with the apostrophe after the s: Fools’. If someone falls for an April Fools’ Day trick, you can call them an April fool with a lowercase f.

Mother’s Day. Logic is useless for figuring out whether holiday names are singular possessive or plural possessive. Case in point: Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s a day to recognize all mothers. But it’s treated as a singular possessive, with the apostrophe before the s. Think of this as the day belonging to the person you can call Mother.

Fourth of July, July Fourth, the Fourth. Publishers spell out the word Fourth and capitalize it, even when it’s a nickname for the holiday: the Fourth. But that’s just because it’s a holiday. Regular dates usually use numerals: July 5, 2022, or July 5th, 2022.

This year, instead of making the same old impossible New Year’s resolutions, how about some easy ones?

Veterans Day. Sometimes a word can be either possessive or an adjective, which is why farmers’ market and farmers market are both correct. In this Nov. 11 holiday, “Veterans” is usually considered adjectival, so no apostrophe.

Thanksgiving Day. When you use “Day” as part of the name, go ahead and capitalize it.

Christmas Day, Christmas Eve. This “Day” gets capitalized, too, anytime you choose to use it. Capitalize “Eve,” as well.

Xmas. There’s no hyphen in Xmas. That part’s easy. More difficult is the question: Do you put “a” or “an” in front of it, like “a/an Xmas present”? Answer: It depends how you would pronounce it. If you would say “eks-mas,” put “an” in front: an eks-mas present. If you pronounce it “Christmas,” use a: a Christmas present. Either choice is fine.

Bryan Garner, author of “Garner’s Modern American Usage,” recently polled followers on Twitter about how they would pronounce Xmas. Just over 45% of the 676 respondents said they’d pronounce it Christmas, while 55% say it eks-mas. So you can pick your preference. And, by the way, Xmas is not a reason to squabble over religion. The X is not designed, as some say, “to take the Christ out of Christmas.” Instead, the X represents the Greek letter “chi” — the first letter in Jesus’ name. “X has ancient antecedents as the symbol of Christ and the cross,” Garner writes.

June Casagrande is the author of “The Joy of Syntax: A Simple Guide to All the Grammar You Know You Should Know.” She can be reached at

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