US public holidays

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I got the date for Labor Day wrong: It’s next weekend. I should have gotten that right, because Labor Day is one of the few holidays in the States that are universally celebrated. On the other hand, it’s lost the meaning it once had, marking the end of vacation and the beginning of the school year, as most schools started back in August.

The worst of the complicated US holidays is Washington’s Birthday. Now it’s called President’s Day in most states and is observed on the third Monday in February, merging the celebration of Washington’s  (Feb 22) and Lincoln’s (Feb 12) real birthdays. Complications abound regarding which days are school-free. It’s all so very PC and giving each his due. A few die-hard states continue to celebrate their favorite president(s) whenever they feel like it. Alabama, for example, observes the day as “Washington and Jefferson Day”, even though Jefferson’s birthday was in April. Those southern whites still don’t do Lincoln. Man, isn’t that pathetic? I can’t even take delight in something so seriously un-PC. Anyway, schools often take the whole week off as a kind of mid-term break.

Really the only reason to remember most of the public holidays in the States is that sales are held on them. Any holidays around October 5? Hey, Columbus Day is October 12, heading back over.


5 Responses

  1. Labor Day began in the 1880s, after a labor leader saw union activity for the 9 hour day in Toronto, and the first worker-led labor day was held the same year in September 1882. The date was incidental. But then Congress turned Labor Day into a national holiday following the notorious Pullman Strike of 1894 (many dead) as a concession to the rioting workers. The international labor movement, the “Second International”, on the other hand, began championing 1 May following the Chicago Haymarket Incident, where demonstrations and strikes for the eight-hour day in May 1886 were ended in a bloodbath on May 4, 1886. The Second International met in Paris to demonstrate for the 8 hour day on May 1, 1890. So back on the ranch in the States there was this relatively meaningless holiday in September, while the firecrackers were flying round the world on 1 May.

    Labor Day in the States is a (national) holiday to say that summer vacation is over, and it’s a big day in NFL and college football (the NCAA), with the NCAA kicking off the season on the Thursday before, and the NFL on the Thursday after Labor Day.

    PS: Labor Day has nothing to do with labor, as far as I can tell. It should be called National Football Day. But that will get them in trouble with pesky European-American soccer fans like me 😉
    PPS: It’s also a great weekend for a (last?) pool party and a barbecue.

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