Federal employees could add St. Patrick’s Day to their list of paid holidays if a new bill were to become law.
The St. Patrick’s Day Act (H.R. 1625) was introduced by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and does just what it sounds like: it would make St. Patrick’s Day a federal holiday.
Fitzpatrick said in a statement:
St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the rich history and fighting spirit of the Irish people – including nearly 2 million in Pennsylvania – and the countless contributions that generations of Irish Americans have made to our nation. As a descendant of Irish immigrants and a friend of Ireland, I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to properly recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a federal holiday.
What is St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 each year to honor the death of the saint with the same name. The holiday is celebrated in Ireland and has been for the past 1,000 years.
Saint Patrick died during the fifth century. Oddly enough, he was British, not Irish. It is believed that he died on March 17 around the year 460.
According to Biography.com, he was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland at the age of 16. He became a Christian while enslaved, believing that the tribulation was a test of his faith by God.
After about six years, he managed to escape and ended up in France where he entered the priesthood. He eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary to spread the gospel of Christ to others.
During his time as a Christian missionary, he established monasteries, churches and schools.
The holiday in St. Patrick’s honor was first celebrated in 1631 when a feast was established in his honor. In the 1700s, the holiday began to become more popular since it was celebrated during Lent and it gave Christians a day off from abstinence leading up to Easter.
Irish immigrants in the United States helped popularize the holiday here. Boston, a city with a large number of Irish immigrants, held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737 and New York held its first in 1762.
In 1798, green became the official color of the holiday. That was the year of the Irish Rebellion. Prior to that event, the official color associated with St. Patrick had been blue.
Only one state currently makes St. Patrick’s Day a state holiday. Massachusetts observes Evacuation Day on March 17 to commemorate the first significant American military victory in the Revolutionary War. It is the day when the British troops evacuated Boston. It also serves to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because of the large number of individuals in Massachusetts of Irish ancestry.
Growing List of Holidays for Federal Employees
Federal employees currently have 11 standard paid federal holidays. This number grew in 2021 when a new law was passed establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In some years, federal employees get additional paid holidays, such as for an extra day off at Christmas if a president grants one, or federal employees in the Washington, DC area get a day off for inauguration day following a presidential election. 2021 was one such year as denoted in the list of 2021 federal holidays when inauguration day was held on January 20, 2021.
If other recent legislative proposals were to eventually become law, federal employees could have as many as 18 paid holidays in a typical year. In addition to St. Patrick’s Day, among the recent proposals in Congress to create new federal holidays are:
The Cost of Federal Holidays
Holidays always sound great; people like getting a day off from work, and politicians like to use the allure of giving free things to voters to curry political favor. However, federal holidays also come with a significant financial cost.
Forbes recently estimated the total cost to taxpayers for each federal holiday at $818 million. In reality, it is probably higher because that figure is just within federal agencies in the Executive Branch and does not include the Postal Service or the military, not to mention inflation has risen rapidly in the two years since that article was published.
For 11 federal holidays, the total cost using the figure from Forbes comes to $8,998,000,000. For 12 federal holidays (adding St. Patrick’s Day), the total grows to $9,816,000,000. If the list were to grow to 18, the total balloons to over $14 billion ($14,724,000,000). That figure is even higher adjusted for inflation; $14,724,000,000 is over $16 billion ($16,347,079,602.91) in 2023 according to usinflationcalculator.com.