The Uniform Holiday Act gave us four three day weekends, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day. It was passed primarily so the federal government employees could have three day weekends. Yep – that’s the reason that February 22 is no longer celebrated as Washington’s Birthday. (By the way, the official name of Monday’s holiday is Washington’s Birthday. The term “Presidents Day” is unofficial.)
I guess I have no real problem with four three day weekends, seems fair enough. The issue, if any, might be that we use the celebration as a way to have three contiguous days off, and maybe not as a time to reflect on our history. I would be shocked SHOCKED if many Americans sat around the dinner table tomorrow and talked about a president, any president. Would there be any discussions of George Washington. How many of us know, for instance, that he was offered the position of king, and turned it down flat. Had he taken it, most likely the America we know today wouldn’t exist. King George said when he heard of Washington’s decision that he “must be the greatest man on earth,” Or something to that effect.
And what about poor honest Abe. Lincoln is surely one of our greatest presidents, if not number one. He held the union together during the civil war and was able to gain freedom for those enslaved by culture and history.
I wonder how many of us think about Chris Columbus (the explorer, not the movie director) on his “day.” It has become fashionable to denigrate him because he began the havoc that Spain wrought on the inhabitants of the New World. But think about it. He and his crews sailed into completely uncharted waters in boats you wouldn’t take on a calm lake for half an hour. And they did it four times. They were the Mercury Astronauts of the late 1400s. They had the right stuff. Would someone else have made it if Chris hadn’t charmed Isabella out of her jewels? Of course. But that’s true of any “first.” Yes I know that the Vikings were here first, but they were a tad more rough and tumble than Columbus and his gang.
Why do we honor explorers like Columbus, and his ilk? They had what it takes to do it. No one else stepped up and said “no, hold it Columbus, I’ll go.” The “educated” world thought he was crazy. But he went anyway.
I’m not sure that moving holidays around so we can have three days “off” is the best thing. If we celebrated Washington’s Birthday on Tuesday, wouldn’t it be a tad more special? If we worked Monday and then took Tuesday off to celebrate a great life wouldn’t that give us an opportunity to consider why we are having a day off. Beside, then a lot of us would be able to sneak in four days, rather than three.