THE STORE – Jingle bells, jingle bells. Those jingles are the sound of cash registers. The bells are on elves’ costumes as they hand out discount coupons for Cuisinarts. And does anyone still say “Merry Christmas?” The greeting now is “Happy Holidays.” Whatever your religious persuasion, ‘tis the season to celebrate these most holy days by spending vast amounts on things we found on Amazon. God would understand. Also, does it seem to you that decorations start going up earlier and earlier? My own specialty shop, Samuel’s Boutique (aka Sam’s Club), put out wreaths, wrappings and Nutcracker soldiers just after Labor Day. Now the Christmas season lasts almost as long as the baseball season.
Didn’t we just get over Thanksgiving? It falls on a Thursday, but try to reach any business person the next day. Friday is an unofficial holiday. “Sorry, Mister Jones is in a meeting,” says the lone secretary who got guard duty on Friday. “When will he be out?” Pause. “The meeting will last all day.” That “meeting” is on a golf course or lake. Actually, we now stretch that holiday even more. On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving-Thursday, people get a head start. By Wednesday afternoon the freeways heading out of town are packed, the city streets are empty. It’s that way before any holiday, everyone leaves at noon a day earlier.
In 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, bowing to pressure from merchants, changed the date of Thanksgiving from the fourth Thursday in November to one week earlier to allow more time for holiday shopping. Because Franklin made the change, the new date was dubbed “Franksgiving.” The change caused all kinds of confusion, so two years later the holiday was moved back to its original date. As a student, I got off Thanksgiving and Friday. That was it. Now schools let out all week, which comes shortly after fall break. Following the Thanksgiving recess, students have two weeks of finals and then the Christmas break, which lasts until the middle of January. (Incidentally, just like the non-holiday of the Friday after Thanksgiving, have you ever tried to get anything done between Christmas and New Year’s Day? It is a dead zone, a full week during which everyone disappears.)
Spring break is next, which can last for a week or until the motel on South Padre or Miami Beach is raided by the cops. The end of classes lands on May 1 (also the May Day holiday in many places) then there is Memorial Day when we honor all our fallen military with flags, parades and mattress sales. Ah, summer. For the next three months it is hard to get a quorum of any kind. “He’s off this month on vacation.” “She’s in Aspen.” (The Canadians, following their British leaders, say, “They’re on holiday.”) You can’t find anyone over the Labor Day week, which can run into Columbus Day, and who works on Halloween? That brings us to Thanksgiving.
In 1971, Congress moved such days-off as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day to a Monday next to a weekend. (Speaking of Congress, it now takes off every other month.) The Mondays-off solves one problem, but we run into trouble when days that can’t be moved fall on a Wednesday. The Fourth of July pretty much has to be celebrated on July fourth. Christmas and New Year’s Day can’t be moved, and when they fall on a Wednesday, that’s an awkward situation. No one wants to work Monday and Tuesday, then celebrate Christmas on Wednesday and go back to work on Thursday, and it is hard to take off most of the week. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, it is usually observed on the following Monday. There are 10 annual federal holidays. Inauguration Day is an 11th holiday designated by Congress every four years on January 20 following a U.S. presidential election. This last Inauguration Day was the world’s largest celebration of any kind, especially if you count the 3-million screaming fans crowded into the National Mall.
Maryland celebrates American Indians Heritage Day. Are there any Indians (excuse me, Native Americans) in Maryland? I thought they were all in Cleveland playing baseball. Virginia marks Lee-Jackson Day (good luck keeping that one). But some are in good stance in the current national mood. Arizona and New Hampshire mark Civil Rights Day. Idaho’s state employees are off on Idaho Human Rights Day. Louisiana celebrates Mardi Gras Tuesday, and most other days. As we might expect, Texas has more state holidays than most other states, because we have more to celebrate, like Juneteenth, Confederate Heroes Day (that won’t last, what you bet?), Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day and, of course, Lyndon Johnson’s Birthday Day. Some are official state holidays and some only field a “skeleton crew.” Actually, it is hard to know when some of these state agencies are fully manned or manned at all. Have you tried to get your driver’s’ license lately? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are holidays when agency managers suddenly find that most of their employees are Jewish. Cesar Chavez Day is taken by our instant-Hispanics.
One would think holidays are welcomed by all – a day off, etc. But some created controversy. The aforementioned Confederates Day or Lee-Jackson Day are prime examples. Columbus Day has been celebrated since 1492. (“Land! No more eels for breakfast!”) Some feel that Chris brought to the Americas diseases, gold hunters, slave owners and empire destroyers. Others counter that the Indians got their revenge by introducing the Old World to tobacco, which has killed a lot more people than did Chris. There is a movement to turn this celebration into Death to Discoverers Day or Conquistadors Go Home Day. Just where this leaves the 21 U.S. cities and towns plus several rivers named for Columbus, much less the country of Colombia, isn’t yet clear.
Now get out there and celebrate the holy days. TVs are 40 percent off!
Ashby spends at Ashby2@comcast.net