It’s Sunday, June first. Not too many years ago (at least like I count time) we would be coming home from a long weekend. We’d have celebrated Memorial Day on Friday, probably with a family get together after visiting the cemetery and placing flowers on the graves of family members, then headed out camping or fishing, or just road-tripping if the weather was good. We’d be sun-burned, exhausted and a little giddy because summer had started so gloriously.
Until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968, the only long weekends we could depend on during the year were Labor Day and Thanksgiving. A Friday or Monday holiday, especially in the summer was a thing to be savored, but if Memorial Day fell on Friday, then Fourth of July would, too, and we were doubly blessed that year. We felt like we had earned the extra time off, not that it was a right, but something to be savored and honored, and treated joyfully.
Then Congress decided the American worker didn’t have enough time off and , besides those we might have normally, devised four long weekends a year centered around made-up holidays: President’s Day in February, falling between Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, hence the name. Neither of those had previously been a federal holiday. The most recognition either received, besides notice on the calendar, was maybe an assignment in elementary school to read a story or write a few paragraphs about the celebrated President.
Then the next was Memorial Day which they moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May so we’d have the long weekend usually the weekend before the traditional holiday. We called it Decoration Day when I was a young kid, then after WWII, Memorial Day resumed it’s meaning in honor of the fallen soldiers. Since then, it has become simply the first long weekend of the summer, although veterans usually launch a celebration in honor of those fallen in all the wars.
Then we had all summer. I guess the powers that be decided we had enough play time in the summer, as that is when nearly everyone in the U.S. takes a vacation. We can depend on Labor Day weekend in September to end the summer, so the next artificial long weekend is Columbus Day, which has become a rallying point for the P.C. crowd because apparently Columbus was some kind of monster and shouldn’t have a holiday named for him regardless of the fact that his accomplishment changed the world as it was then known. It has become the October long weekend, celebrated the second Monday in October, which happens to fall near Columbus Day, and which was never much of a holiday to begin with anyway. Rather than make up a reason to take a day off, why didn’t Congress just say “American workers need a holiday in October. Let’s designate the second Monday just because.”
Veterans Day is in November. Most veterans also still honor Armistice Day, which Veteran’s Day was supposed to take the place of and the long weekend has been dispensed with. Of course we have the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month, so aren’t hurting for days off during November.
The next step was politically correct holidays that celebrate whatever is the PC issue of the time apparently. I think THE politically correct holiday to take care of the next long weekend we have to name should celebrate Sacajawea. Believe me, she deserves it as much as others we choose to honor. Without her our ancestors would have been left sitting at St. Louis wondering what happened to Lewis and Clark, whose descendents would be wandering around Montana (which would not be Montana) trying to find a passage to the west over the Rocky Mountains. She guided the expedition to the Snake River and beyond, taught them the language of the Shoshone so they could trade and negotiate, and brought them back again. And she did it with a baby on her back.
Since I am retired and don’t need an excuse for a holiday, I’m not too sure when to declare Sacajawea Day, but nearly any month would do because she was with the Expedition for a couple of years, quietly doing her thing. March and April are the months when a break is most needed, but because Easter is so perfidious, it would have to be before March 21 or after April 20 so as not to conflict with that celebration. June is also barren, but we have Memorial Day and Fourth of July bracketing the month, so it might be overkill to have another designated long weekend then.
I guess the point is (if there is one) is we don’t need an excuse to enjoy ourselves. Made up holidays sometimes get in the way of real celebrations. No matter what the calendar, or the Government says, let’s honor those who should be honored, celebrate with gusto if we feel like it, and we don’t even have to close the Post Office.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org