...or is it? When I was a kid, a holiday fell on the day it was supposed to, like Columbus Day, that was always October 12th. That was the day Columbus arrived in the Americas, October 12, 1492. Though celebrated for centuries, yes even during the colonial period in 1792, FDR declared it a federal holiday only in 1934. But, as with many holidays, it was changed in 1971 to the second Monday in October to create a nice three day weekend. The hell with the date, right? What’s in a number? We’ll just change things around for convenience sake.
Remember when Lincoln and Washington had their own birthdays? Lincoln’s being on February 12th and Washington’s on February 22nd. That got to be too much trouble. Two Presidents in one month, ten days apart. So they did away with Washington’s birthday and there never was a federal holiday honoring Lincoln. And instead of those days, we created President’s Day the third Monday in February to lump in all presidents. This way Lincoln gets in on Washington’s day and we have another three day weekend. You would think that a man who unified the country after the Civil War would have his own holiday, but no.
Memorial Day honoring dead soldiers, used to be May 30th, but “used to be’s ain’t what they used to be,” as my mother would say. Instead, we now celebrate it as the last Monday in May for yet another three day weekend that kicks off the start of summer and shopping.
Of course there are other holidays they wouldn’t dream of changing…at least not yet. New Year’s Day still falls on January 1st and not the first Monday in January. Independence day is still July 4th and not the first Monday in July. The reasons for those staying true to their dates are obvious. And of course Veteran’s Day is always celebrated November 11th and not the second Monday in November, and yes there is a reason for this. The reason is World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. So it wouldn’t do to move that day and have it lose all meaning. And lastly, Christmas, the birth of Jesus, is celebrated December 25 and not the last Monday of December. Of course, no one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but it would not be well received to move around a long standing, traditional holiday commemorating the birth of Our Lord.
I suppose that one day someone will get the bright idea to move around the remaining holidays to Mondays eventually. With the passing of time, the meaning of things fade away and all we are concerned with is a day off. The only thing better than a day off is three days off in a row. Who cares whose birthday it is or why we picked out those dates in the first place? Who cares about tradition?
So tomorrow is Columbus Day and the meaning of October 12th will sail into the sunset just like Columbus did centuries ago.