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Navigating Federal Holidays

Am I the only one who gets lost trying to figure out which holidays fall on what days?  It took an act of Congress to make it so confusing–the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.  Congress changed many of our holidays to Mondays rather than the actual date of the event being recognized, but not all of them.

Had Congress made all holidays fall on Mondays, it would be far less confusing.  If that were the case however, Americans could find themselves celebrating New Year’s Day on the first Monday of January, which could cause our January 1st celebration to also fall on the 2nd thru the 7th. 

The same is true for Independence Day.  Imagine how strange it would be to celebrate the 4th of July on July 6th.  Therefore the first day of the new year is always celebrated on January 1st, and the 4th of July is always celebrated on July 4th.  To me, that is where the logic ends.

Consider, Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  It would be a lot simpler to have Thanksgiving fall on a Monday as so many businesses find a lot of employees call in sick the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Apparently many families are not cooking the turkey thoroughly.

Another holiday not under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act is Veterans Day.  Initially Congress moved  it to the final Monday in October, but there was so much criticism Congress restored Veterans Day to November 11th.  There was not nearly as much criticism regarding Labor Day and Memorial Day, now celebrated on Mondays. 

The four remaining are all birthday holidays, but only Christmas is celebrated on the same date each year, December 25th.  It seems a little odd to me that of the four birthday holidays, the only one celebrated on the same date each year is Christmas, yet most theologians agree they are unsure of the actual birth date of Jesus.

We do know the exact dates of birth for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Christopher Columbus, but we do not celebrate their birthday on their birthdays, but instead switch them to a Monday.  The most criticized birthday celebration is Columbus Day.

First of all, Christopher Columbus did not discover America.  Even if he had been the first to land and plant the flag on the “newly discovered” territory, it was San Salvador, not the mainland we call America today.  Columbus failed to find a short route to the East Indies and failed to bring the rich spices he promised the Spanish Empire.  On top of that, he is accused of mistreating and enslaving the natives inhabiting the territory he claimed for Spain.

While enjoying the Columbus Day holiday October 10th, we should know where Columbus succeeded. He returned to Spain with a ship filled with a host of new foods including pineapple, blueberries, wild rice, chocolate, squash, vanilla, potatoes, bell and chili peppers, corn, turkey, peanuts, and many other foods that quickly became staples of the European diet.

The gold in the ship’s hold also went a long way in helping Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand forgive the shortcomings of Christopher Columbus.  Enjoy your three-day weekend.

(Denny Banister, of Jefferson City, Mo., is the assistant director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)

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