President’s Day is a “fake” holiday. And unless we make some serious changes to the way we celebrate the day, I think we should simply do away with it.
Who Or What Are We Celebrating?
According to Wikipedia, President’s Day was originally instituted in 1879 to celebrate the birth of George Washington. Due to some funny business having to do with changes in our calendar keeping system, the day the holiday actually falls on has nothing to do with Washington’s actual birthdate. George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 under the Julian calendar. Under the Gregorian calendar, his birthday is February 22.
As time went on, Americans also felt compelled to celebrate the birth of Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12, 1809. But, feeling that two holidays so close together would be rather burdensome, it was decided in 1971 to expand the original holiday honoring Washington to honor all American presidents, and to peg the holiday to the third Monday in February.
As a result, to most Americans it’s never been entirely clear what exactly the holiday has been celebrating. Washington? Lincoln? Or all of the above?
The Holiday Lacks Pomp And Circumstance
Most holidays are marked by special rituals, festivities, and food. And why? Because a holiday is a “holy day” that is separate from all the other days of the year. To honor something called a holiday, we do things differently on those days than all the other days of the year. That way the day is distinct, and special.
For example, on Valentine’s Day we make sweeping romantic gestures to those we love, and do things like go somewhere special to eat, or give each other chocolates. On Independence Day we blow things up in the sky and grill out. At Christmas we go to special church services, decorate a tree in our house, bake cookies, exchange presents, and have a big meal.
You get the picture.
And on President’s Day what do we do? Stores have discounted sales on mattresses and appliances. Which, isn’t a bad thing if you are in need of a new place to lay your head at night, or want something to cook on. But such isn’t exactly a noteworthy way of celebrating anything. At best you are lucky to have a job that observes federal holidays, and you are among the lucky few who get the day off.
I’ve read that some say we should honor President’s Day by eating cherry pie. Such sounds like a promising idea. I like pie. But somehow I don’t think that’s going to get a lot of traction. Cherry pie just doesn’t get a lot of people excited like grilling a burger or deep frying a turkey.
Either way, no matter how you break things down, our “celebration” of President’s Day is pretty weak.
So What Are We To Do?
If we are going to call something a holiday, then let’s make it into a real holiday. Let’s try transform President’s Day into a more noteworthy occasion.
Let it be a day filled with over-the-top displays of patriotic sentimentality, large spreads of food, and blowing things up. And if businesses still want to sell discounted mattresses, I might be in the market for another in a few years.
If we don’t make these changes, then President’s Day is just a fake holiday. And I believe President’s Day needs to either be transformed into something big, or, with all due respect to president Lincoln, be killed off entirely.