It is November, and in case you haven’t noticed all the décor changing and the lights being strung up everywhere and the uproar over the color of Starbucks cups, the holiday season is upon us. Of course, which holiday season is upon us can vary depending upon your religious persuasion.
Like everything else, apparently, there are laws about holidays. In fact, there is an entire chapter (4) of Title One of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated called “Holidays and Observances.” In addition to making an official declaration that the State of Georgia shall recognize all public and legal holidays designated as public and legal holidays by the federal government as of January 1, 1984, the Governor can also designate and proclaim “public and legal holidays or as days of fasting and prayer or other religious observance.”
I find this sentence, found in O.C.G.A. 1-4-1(a)(2) to be interesting: “In such designation the Governor shall include at least one of the following dates: January 19, April 26, or June 3, or a suitable date in lieu thereof to commemorate the event or events now observed by such dates.” January 19th is Robert E. Lee’s Birthday; April 26 is Confederate Memorial Day in Florida and Georgia; and June 3 is Confederate Memorial Day in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Why the code section couldn’t just come out and say it wanted some sort of Confederate Memorial Day or pick a date is beyond me.
O.C.G.A. 1-4-2 says, in its entirety, “The only days to be declared, treated, and considered as religious holidays shall be the first day of each week, called Sunday.” I’m not sure what this would apply to, nor am I certain that it is constitutional, as it establishes the Christian Sabbath, which seems like a violation of the establishment clause. That said, since I can’t imagine how it would apply it seems harmless enough.
There are specific holidays that have their own code sections. I find it fascinating which commemorations made the cut: which ones made it out of sub-committee, then committee, and to the floor of both houses to become a law. I wonder which holidays did not make inclusion. These designated holidays are, in the order they are listed in the code:
- “American History Month” (which also includes “Georgia History Month” and is February of each year);
- “Wildflower Week” (the fourth week of March);
- “Bird Day” (the second Thursday in October);
- “Law Enforcement Officer Appreciation Day” (the second Monday in February);
- “Peace Officer Memorial Day; Police Week” (May 15th);
- “Children’s Day” (the first Sunday in October);
- “Former Prisoners of War Recognition Day” (April 9);
- “Girls and Women in Sports Day” (the first Thursday in February);
- “Clean Water Week” (the third week in October);
- “Firefighter Appreciation Day” (the first Tuesday in February);
- “Bill of Rights Day” (December 15th) – on this day, “[t]he citizens of this state are encouraged to observe the day by reflecting upon the meaning and importance of the Bill of Rights.”
- “Home Education Week” (the first week in February).
So: raise a glass to Former Prisoners of War, gather a bouquet for Wildflower Week, learn some birdcalls for Bird Day, or reflect upon the meaning of the Fifth Amendment. Whatever you do, celebrate, because we could all do well by appreciating as many things as possible in this world.