Let’s Celebrate: Holidays in Texas and Texas Schools
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.
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.
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.
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. Tex. Gov’t Code § 662.154.
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.
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 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.
According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission the “official” state holidays include:
3rd Monday - Presidents' Day[iv]
Last Monday - Memorial Day[ix]
19 - Emancipation Day in Texas (partial staffing holiday)[x]
4 - Independence Day[xi]
27 - Lyndon Baines Johnson Day (partial
Yom Kippur see Rosh Hashanah (above)
 The week in which September 17 falls each year.
 Apparently the Texas Native Plants had better lobbyists than the Texas Bison.
[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.
[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.
[vi] Senate Bill 107, 76th Legislature Regular Session. Chapter 521 Approved June 18, 1999 and Effective September 1, 1999 as an optional holiday.
[viii] Joint Resolution 7, 14th Legislature, 1874. Section 1.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
[xviii] House Bill 656 (Appropriations Bill), 67th Legislature Regular
Session. Chapter 875.
Approved and Effective June 18, 1981.