An evening conversation: Birthday? Whose?

By The Mercury

Yes, children, today is a legal holiday.

More or less.

If you enjoyed a day off school or slept until noon instead of doing your job at the bank, you’d probably say it was because of Presidents Day.

The truth, though, is that this holiday comes straight out of a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Start with this: There is a society dedicated to adding an apostrophe that would change the name to “Presidents’ Day.”

But hey, that’s small stuff.

Maybe those folks ought to start with lobbying the federal government to fix the actual name. The United States itself refers to this holiday as “Washington’s Birthday.”


Never mind that our first president was born on Feb. 22.

The whole hassle about this holiday got well and truly revved up in 1971, when a governmental committee – you see the train wreck coming already, right? – took up the issue of having two holidays so close together.

See, the country had been celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) and then Washington’s just 10 days later.

When the committee got done putzing around, we were reduced to one holiday that, for some obscure reason, would be celebrated on the third Monday of February.

Since rudimentary calendar work proves that NEITHER the 12th (Lincoln) nor the 22nd (Washington) can fall on the third Monday of this month – yet another committee decided that the holiday should honor both presidents.

Or perhaps ALL presidents.

But no one ever got around to making it official.

(You can see why all that fussing over an apostrophe seems a little silly, when we can’t even decide what we’re celebrating.)

Meanwhile, since a national holiday doesn’t necessarily have to be recognized in any precise form by individual states, we’ve inherited a complete mish-mash.

New Mexico, for example, has designated the day after Thanksgiving as its official holiday to honor the presidents.

Right, and then you have Arkansas, which today has been busy celebrating “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Batson Gates Day” – splitting the honors between a president and a 1950s-era Civil Rights pioneer.

Massachusetts celebrates Washington’s Birthday, but also tosses in a proclamation on May 29 to honor all presidents from that state – and hey, that date also happens to be John F. Kennedy’s birthday.

There are several states that legally honor Washington and Lincoln together, a few that diss poor Abe while recognizing Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and hey, for all you apostrophe freaks…

Yes, there are Presidents Days, President’s Days and Presidents’ Days in various states.

Oh, and if YOU took today off – right here in Kansas – you were enjoying Presidents Day.

No apostrophe.

Unless you work for the federal government, of course. In that case, you owe your time off to the celebration of George Washington’s birthday.

I’m sure you can live with any old reason for a holiday.

Even if today isn’t really Feb. 22. Or the 12th.

But heck, it’s got to be someone’s birthday. Even the government can’t argue that.

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