Is St. Patrick’s Day a Legal Holiday?

Everyone’s favorite holiday in March is St. Patrick's Day. March 17th is the day of religious and cultural celebration dedicated to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who allegedly drove all of the snakes out of the country. In America, St. Patrick's Day is often celebrated by a large population of those who are of Irish descent. With so many festivities dedicated to St. Patty's Day, it is curious that St. Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day is Not a Legally Recognized Holiday

St. Patrick's Day is one of the many religious and cultural holidays that is not recognized as a legal holiday in the United States. This is similar to other holidays such as Easter, Ash Wednesday, and Yom Kippur, none of which are legally recognized holidays. Unlike on federal holidays, the postal service, state and federal government, and public school systems remain open and operational on St. Patrick’s Day because the holiday does not enjoy legal holiday status. Despite many cities and towns holding cultural and religious celebrations and parades to mark St. Patty’s Day, the United States government and practically all state and local governments do not, and most likely will not ever recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a legal holiday.

What is a Legal Holiday?

In the United States, a legal holiday is one that is recognized by the government as a holiday established by law. Legal holidays can be based on federal law, state law, or local law. A few  examples of federal holidays mandated by law include the following:

  • New Year's Day

  • Memorial Day

  • Independence Day

  • Labor Day

  • Veterans Day

  • Thanksgiving Day

  • Christmas Day

There are some federal holidays that exist, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day or President's Day, that individual states are not required to recognize under the law. For instance, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin do not observe President’s Day. Similarly, Rhode Island does not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a legal holiday.

There are some holidays that states recognize as being legal holidays, despite not being recognized as legal holidays on the federal level. For instance, Nevada recognizes Nevada Day on the last Friday in October and Family Day on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. California recognizes Lincoln Day on February 12th, Cesar Chavez Day on March 31st, and Admission Day on September 9th, as legal holidays. States such as North Carolina, Texas, and several other states recognize the whole day on Good Friday as a legal holiday while California recognizes only a few hours of Good Friday. Utah celebrates its forebears on Pioneer Day.

Whether a particular day is a legal holiday can have an impact on you, particularly if you are an employer or a worker who is eligible for paid holidays. On legal holidays, employers are generally required to provide workers with paid time off, although there are many employee exemptions that may apply to holiday pay. If you have questions about whether you are facing a holiday, or if you have to pay your employees for a paid holiday, please feel free to contact our office. The team at Parry & Pfau is happy to schedule a free consultation with you.

(image courtesy of Irene Davila)