Let’s Celebrate: Holidays in Texas and Texas Schools

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Let’s Celebrate: Holidays in Texas and Texas Schools

By Dennis J. Eichelbaum, Shareholder
Schwartz & Eichelbaum Wardell Mehl and Hansen, P.C.
(800) 488-9045 :: www.edlaw.com :: dje@edlaw.com

It’s time for the annual “Don’t Forget the Holidays” article, where we update everyone on the calendar of state-recognized holidays that are expected to be recognized by every school. The State of Texas has designated several days as “recognition days.”  You might want to be familiar with these days, either for observance in your schools or just as a conversation starter in the teacher’s lounge. Again, please understand that some of the comments in this article are meant to be humorous and not meant to diminish the causes for which the celebrations have been honored or memorialized.

Hopefully you did not miss Women’s Independence Day, which took place August 26.  No, it does not commemorate when women became free from the British, but rather the ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote.  State law actually says that “Women’s Independence Day shall be regularly observed by appropriate programs in the public schools…to inspire a greater appreciation of the importance of women’s suffrage.”  Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.051.

September 11 is Texas First Responder’s Day, which honors “the bravery, courage, and determination of Texas men and women who assist others in emergencies.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.050.  It shall be observed “by appropriate ceremonies in the public schools.” Id.[1]

Do not forget that this year September 14-18 is Celebrate Freedom Week.[2] Texas Education Code § 29.907 mandates that schools must “educate students about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values on which this country was founded.”  For some of the values for which our country was founded, see two paragraphs above.

The third Wednesday of September (this year September 16) is Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.055. Dr. Garcia was a Mexican-American distinguished physician who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and is founder of the American GI Forum, which promotes civil rights protection for Hispanic veterans and all Americans.  In WWII, Dr. Garcia won the Bronze Star Medal with six battle stars. Schools are to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities to recognize his contributions.

Rounding out September’s official celebrations is September 20, which is recognized as Texian Navy Day. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.052.  This act was added to the books in 2005, so watch for those parades with members of the Texian Navy sitting in open air vehicles, and help celebrate by wearing navy Dockers™.

Last year I pondered why October had no special days. Well, the Texas Legislature responded to my inquiry, and now we have an entire week to celebrate Texas Native Plants.  Yes, the third full week in October is Texas Native Plant Week, during which schools are to appreciate, explore, and study Texas native plants.[3] Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.154.

Before you get in a tizzy and say I forgot the other piece of important legislation for October, that being Monarch Butterfly Week (the first seven days of October), it does not require anyone to act, but rather it is to “encourage Texas residents and visitors to study, observe, and promote the life of the state insect, the monarch butterfly.” Tex. Gov’t Code 662.153.

In November we have Father of Texas Day (November 3). Yes, public schools are to observe Stephen F. Austin’s birthday with “appropriate and patriotic programs in the public schools.”  Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.045.  As a lawyer I somewhat worry about the fact that these statutes use the plural, meaning we must have more than one program, but I am unaware of TEA having a Father of Texas Day Compliance Officer, so districts will probably sneak by if they only hold one really effective program.

January 6 is Sam Rayburn Day, and not just Bonham but all public schools are supposed to observe the day with appropriate programs. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.041.

February 19 is “STAR” Day (State of Texas Anniversary Remembrance Day), which honors the date Texas joined the Union and the day that James Pinckney Henderson became the first governor of the State of Texas.  Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.047. You know what we have to do.  Interestingly enough, according to the U.S. Congress, Texas became a state on December 29, 1845. That is probably why the Texas quarter lists 1845 on it.  Perhaps the mail was slow. It should also be noted that Texas left the Union to join the Confederacy, then returned to the Union, but we only celebrate the first time we joined the Union, that being the year after the United States says we joined the Union. Maybe it was the time zones?

March 29 is Vietnam Veterans Day in honor of the men and women who served in this Vietnam War on behalf of our nation. It is to be observed by “appropriate ceremonies. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.058.

March is Texas History Month. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.102. April is Child Safety Month. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.103. February is Black History Month but it is not found in any Texas statute.

May 13, 2009 will mark Public School Paraprofessional Day. It specifically lists those being honored as: teacher assistants,   instructional aides, educational trainers, library attendants, bilingual assistants, special education associates, mentors, and tutors.”  Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.049. There is a qualifier with regard to the programming, since it says the programming should recognize “the paraprofessionals who have made tremendous contributions to the educational process.” Therefore, those that have not made tremendous contributions need not be recognized.[4]

According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission the “official” state holidays include:


1 – New Years Day[i]
19 – Confederate Heroes Day (partial staffing holiday)[ii]
3rd Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day[iii]


3rd Monday – Presidents’ Day[iv]


2 – Texas Independence Day (partial staffing holiday)[v]
31 – Cesar Chavez Day (Optional Holiday)[vi]


Good Friday (Optional Holiday)[vii]
21 – San Jacinto Day (partial staffing holiday)[viii]


Last Monday – Memorial Day[ix]


19 – Emancipation Day in Texas (partial staffing holiday)[x]


4 – Independence Day[xi]


27 – Lyndon Baines Johnson Day (partial staffing holiday)[xii]


1st Monday – Labor Day[xiii]
Rosh Hashanah (Optional Holiday)[xiv]


Yom Kippur see Rosh Hashanah (above)


11 – Veteran’s Day[xv]
4th Thursday – Thanksgiving Day [xvi]
Friday after Thanksgiving[xvii]

December24, 26 – Days before and after Christmas[xviii]
25 – Christmas[xix]
Not to be outdone, the following are our official statutory recognition days, as found in Texas Government Code Chapter 662, Subchapter C.January 6         Sam Rayburn DayJanuary            Volunteers for Democracy Day (second Tuesday)February 19     State of Texas Anniversary Remembrance Day (START)March              Texas History MonthMarch 2           Texas Flag DayApril                Texas Fruit and Vegetable MonthApril                Child Safety MonthApril 9             Former Prisoners of War Recognition DayMay                 Public School Paraprofessional Day (second Wednesday)May                 Transportation Week (third Friday)May 22-26       International Trade Awareness WeekJuly                  Buffalo Soldiers Heritage MonthAugust             Texas Parents Day (second Sunday)August 26       Women’s Independence DaySeptember 11  First Responders DaySeptember       Obesity Awareness Week (second full week)[5]September       Texian Navy Day (third Saturday)October           Columbus Day (second Monday)November       Lung Cancer Awareness MonthNovember 3    Father of Texas DayNovember       Texas Adoption Day (Saturday before Thanksgiving)You may or may not be interested to know that the Legislature also addressed the rising number of holidays this past session. Now state symbols, place designations, and days, weeks, and months for recognition will only last for ten years (but they can be re-designated). The good news is, however, that any resolution before September 1, 2009 or any statute is grandfathered in and will remain forever more, forever more. See Tex. Gov’t Code Chapter 391.Happy holidays everyone.

[1] September 12 was going to be Texas Bison Day, but that bill failed this year. Had it passed we would have had to have programs to “explore, study, and appreciate the history of the Texas bison.” Perhaps the Texas Legislature did not want to offend immigrant bison by singling out Texas bison. Regardless, so long as we do not recognize those Yankee bison!

[2] The week in which September 17 falls each year.

[3] Apparently the Texas Native Plants had better lobbyists than the Texas Bison.

[4] I know this will sadden many, but Aviation Maintenance Technician Day got stuck in committee, otherwise we could have celebrated on May 24, in particular recognizing Charles Edward Taylor, who built and maintained the engine used by the Wright Brothers in their first flying machine.

[5] Shouldn’t this be the week of Thanksgiving?

[i] Listed in Article 2835 of the 1879 Revised Statutes as a legal holiday.

[ii] House Bill 126, 42nd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 8. Approved and Effective January 30, 1931 as Robert E. Lee’s Birthday. Senate Bill 60, 63rd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 221. Approved June 1, 1973 and Effective August 27, 1973 as Confederate Heroes Day. This bill deleted June 3rd as a holiday for Jefferson Davis’ birthday and combined the two into Confederate Heroes Day.

[iii] Senate Bill 485, 70th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 159. Approved May 25, 1987 and Effective August 31, 1987 as an optional holiday. Senate Bill 134, 72nd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 445. Approved and Effective on June 11, 1991 as an official state holiday.

[iv] Listed "February 22" in Article 2835 of the Revised Statutes of 1879 as a legal holiday in honor of Washington’s Birthday. House Bill 112, 61st Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 205. Approved May 14, 1969 and Effective January 1, 1971 as President’s Day and changed to the 3rd Monday.

[v] Joint Resolution 7, 14th Legislature, 1874. Section 1.

[vi] Senate Bill 107, 76th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 521 Approved June 18, 1999 and Effective September 1, 1999 as an optional holiday.

[vii] Senate Bill 1 (Appropriations Bill) 70th Legislature 2nd Called Session. Chapter 78.
Approved and Effective August 6, 1987 as an optional holiday.

[viii] Joint Resolution 7, 14th Legislature, 1874. Section 1.

[ix] House Bill 255, 60th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 416. Approved June 12, 1967 and Effective August 28, 1967 for the 30th of May. House Bill 112, 61st Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 205. Approved May 14, 1969 and Effective January 1, 1971 to change the date to the last Monday in May.

[x] House Bill 1016, 66th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 481. Approved June 7, 1979 and Effective January 1, 1980 in honor of the emancipation of the slaves in Texas in 1865.

[xi] Listed in Article 2835 of the 1879 Revised Statutes as a legal holiday.

[xii] Senate Bill 60, 63rd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 221. Approved June 1, 1973 and Effective August 27, 1973 in observance of the birthday of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

[xiii] Senate Bill 74, 23rd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 7. Approved and effective February 11, 1893.

[xiv] House Concurrent Resolution 136, 68th Legislature, 1983. (not listed in the session laws) Senate Bill 179 (Appropriations Bill), 68th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 1095. Approved June 19, 1983 and Effective August 29, 1983.

[xv] Senate Bill 163, 37th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 48. Approved March 21, 1921 and Effective 90 days after March 12, 1921 the date of adjournment in honor of "Victory Day". Senate Bill 250, 54th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 27. Approved March 21, 1955 and Effective 90 days after June 7, 1955 the date of adjournment to change the name to Veteran’s Day. House Bill 112, 61st Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 205. Approved May 14, 1969 and Effective January 1, 1971 to change the date of Veteran’s Day to the 4th Monday in October. Senate Bill 11, 64th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 11. Approved March 6, 1975 and Effective September 1, 1975 to change the date of Veteran’s Day back to November 11.

[xvi] House Bill 384, 52nd Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 163. Approved May 10, 1951 and Effective January 1, 1952 for the last Thursday in November. Senate Bill 89, 55th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 205. Approved May 10, 1957 and Effective January 1, 1958 to change the date to the 4th Thursday in November.

[xvii] House Bill 656 (Appropriations Bill), 67th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 875. Approved and effective June 18, 1981.

[xviii] House Bill 656 (Appropriations Bill), 67th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 875.
Approved and Effective June 18, 1981.

[xix] Listed in Article 2835 of the 1879 Revised Statutes as a legal holiday.

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