what are holidays like in prison

What Are Holidays Like in Prison


Prisons are usually not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about festive celebrations. However, prisoners, like anyone else, mark the passage of time, and holidays play a significant role in this. What are holidays like in prison? Let’s delve into the reality of holiday celebrations behind bars.

The Importance of Holidays in Prison

Holidays in prison serve multiple purposes. They offer a break from the monotony, a chance to reflect, and a glimmer of hope and normalcy in a not-so-normal environment.

What Makes a Prison Holiday?

A holiday in prison isn’t marked by lavish celebrations or family gatherings. It’s usually a quieter, more subdued affair, marked by subtle changes in routine and limited privileges.

Traditional Holidays in Prison

Celebrating Christmas

Christmas is one holiday that stirs feelings of both joy and sadness in inmates. It’s a stark reminder of their situation, their isolation, and the life and family they’re missing out on.

The Reality of Christmas Behind Bars

For inmates, Christmas might include a special meal or a holiday-themed event organized by prison staff. However, it’s also a time when feelings of loneliness and nostalgia are most profound.

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Welcoming the New Year

New Year’s Eve is typically quiet in prisons. There are no fireworks or countdown parties, but there’s often a sense of anticipation for the year ahead.

New Year’s Day in a Cell

On New Year’s Day, some inmates may set goals or resolutions, hoping for positive changes in their lives. But mostly, it’s another day in their sentence, another day closer to freedom.

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in prison can be a complex experience. The holiday’s message of gratitude contrasts sharply with the harsh realities of life behind bars.

Thanksgiving: Gratitude and Grit

Thanksgiving behind bars may involve a special meal, but the occasion also serves to reinforce inmates’ resilience and adaptability.

Unique Prison Holidays

The Significance of Prisoner’s Justice Day

Not all holidays celebrated in prison are traditional. Prisoner’s Justice Day, observed on August 10th, is a day of remembrance and protest against deaths in custody.

Observing a Day of Silent Protest

On this day, inmates may engage in a silent protest, refusing to work or eat in solidarity with those who have lost their lives in prison.

Prison Holiday Privileges

Special Meals and Activities

Prison holidays might come with certain privileges, such as special meals or organized activities. These events can provide a brief respite from the usual prison routine.

The Realities and Limitations

However, these privileges are limited and depend largely on the prison’s policies and resources. Even on holidays, the stark realities of prison life remain unchanged.

The Role of Family and Loved Ones

Visits and Phone Calls

Family interactions become particularly significant during holidays. Some prisons may allow extended visitation hours or additional phone calls.

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Letters and Gifts

Inmates might receive holiday cards or small approved gifts from their loved ones, providing a tangible connection to the outside world.


Holidays in prison are a blend of small privileges, poignant reflection, and subtle acts of resistance. They offer a glimpse of normalcy while underscoring the harsh realities of incarceration. Ultimately, prison holidays serve as a stark reminder of the human capacity for hope and resilience in even the most challenging circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do inmates get special meals on holidays? Yes, inmates often receive special meals on holidays, although this depends on the prison’s resources and policies.
  2. Can prisoners receive holiday gifts from their families? Some prisons allow inmates to receive approved items or care packages during the holiday season.
  3. Do inmates celebrate holidays like those on the outside? Celebrations are far more subdued in prison, but inmates do mark holidays in their own ways.
  4. What is Prisoner’s Justice Day? Prisoner’s Justice Day is a day of remembrance and protest observed by inmates to honor those who have died in custody.
  5. How do inmates cope with feelings of loneliness during holidays? Inmates may write letters, make phone calls, or participate in prison-organized activities to cope with feelings of loneliness.

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