Today is the 207th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. If you already knew that, congratulations, you are in a select minority who do.
See, while schools close for two days in February, the reason for these closures remain vague for most. All it means is a three-day weekend.
If you are as old as I am, you remember schools used to have two holidays in February for the most revered U.S. Presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 12, and George Washington, Feb. 22.
It used to make sense. Have a day off to recognize America’s first president and another for the man who held this country together through its only civil war.
What is curious is that schools that close for Lincoln’s birthday do so independently for there is no federal holiday for Honest Abe.
And while a day off in honor of George Washington has been a federal holiday since1885, it has been decades since it was celebrated on his actual birthday.
Signed into law by President Johnson in 1968 but not enacted until 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act mandated that Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day move to Mondays.
Why? To provide Americans additional three-day weekend opportunities to help the economies of the tourism and retail industries.
This meant that the real Armistice Day of Nov. 11 was pushed back to the fourth Monday in October. Due to the outcry of Veterans groups, the day was relocated to its proper month. In recent years, schools have attempted to observe it on the real day unless the 11th comes on a weekend.
Meanwhile, once Washington’s Birthday was altered, the holiday became mistakenly known as Presidents’ Day. The federal government still refers to the third Monday in February as Washington’ Birthday even though on nearly all calendars and advertisements “Presidents’ Day” is used.
I don’t know about you, but should we really honor every past president, even the 32-day tenure of William Henry Harrison?
Even more baffling is that the third Monday in February never falls on Feb. 22. In other words, the U.S. law guarantees that no one will know the year when the father of this country was born.
Look, few of us put forth an effort to recognize the holidays we are given days off from work. How many attend a Martin Luther King parade or visit a veterans cemetery on Memorial Day?
The one constant that unites us on all holidays is the freedom to do whatever we want to do. Stores no longer close on Thanksgiving or Christmas. People can now exercise their normal spending habits any day, go to a movie, eat a meal, buy some clothes.
And in having 24/7 access, we are depriving ourselves of slowing down a few days a year, and honoring people who have sacrificed for our privilege to eat a Big Mac and drink a zebra Frappuccino anytime we desire.
As long as we aren’t the ones flipping the burgers or stirring the drinks, working on holidays has no impact on our lives.
Even Daylight Savings Time was devised so that people would have more light to buy more stuff. And by the way, how about renaming it Standard Time since we are on non-standard time 66% of the year, from March 12 to Nov. 7 in 2016.
President Obama should issue an executive order moving Washington’s Birthday to the fourth Monday of February; a week later would make no difference in retail sales.
Since Feb. 22 falls on five Mondays over the next 33 years, we can least get it right a few times.
Now, who wants to join me in starting the petition to make this happen? I’ll bring the cherry pie.