One Man’s Opinion, “Strengthening Our National Holidays,” Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The number of U.S. national holidays tends to matter more to those of us who meet and make payrolls, and citizens who routinely find it more and more difficult actually reaching a human being when dealing with a local, state or federal government agency or bureaucracy.
Though I strongly support making Juneteenth a federal holiday (June 19th), most likely to be later celebrated on the closest available Monday, national holidays have very real and significant costs as well. Billions in lost work productivity and work stoppage, and with taxpayers now paying for 11 federal holiday days-off, we will be watching to see how many states add Juneteenth to their official holiday calendars as well, as those costs are significant. Until Congress passed, by healthy bi-partisan margins, Juneteenth as the latest federal holiday, the most immediate prior addition was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday (January 20), which also coincided with the combining of celebrations of the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln into President’s Day (February 20th).
So now, we celebrate as well as fund government holiday weekends, almost one per month of the year – New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, President’s Day (February), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (4th of July), Labor Day (first Monday in September), Columbus Day (also increasingly observed as Indigenous People’s Day, first Monday in October), Veteran’s Day (recognized at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of November), Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Only March and April at this point are without federal holidays…and many holidays which do mark our lives and calendars such as Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Halloween are worthy of celebration, but thankfully so far not additional paid national holidays.
And I might be more overly supportive of the down time if I felt as a nation that we were more frequently utilizing these long weekends to contribute to building unity or even regular communication across our nation. In reverse order of the calendar, Christmas has become for many an overly commercialized gift fest, less focused on the spiritual elements of the celebration of the birth of Christ, or even the calendar companion December celebration of Hanukkah. Thanksgiving has kept a bit more of its focus, and remains the heaviest family travel weekend of the year, but has also become defined by gluttony and college football. Veteran’s Day is perhaps our most solemn federal holiday, but more often than it should be, it is confused with Memorial Day in May. Veteran’s Day celebrates all men and women in every service branch in uniform, Memorial Day honors those who never made it home from battle.
And now with the advent of Juneteenth, it was evident from talk radio to local newspapers, that the meaning and details of celebrating the federal troop intervention in Texas to enforce the emancipation of the enslaved after the Civil War was over is unclear to many. President Abraham Lincoln signed and made effective his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Confederate General Robert E. Lee, of the Army of Northern Virginia, signed the Appomattox Treaties and Armistice in April of 1865. Though the telegraph was invented in 1838, and connected major population centers, it was not yet broadly available coast to coast. Word of the war’s end, along with Union troops reached Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, and immediately afterward, the enslaved of Texas were emancipated and made free people. At that time there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved across Texas, which had been annexed into the U.S. in 1845.
So, let’s maximize communication and a bit of civic history lessons, to help improve bang for our taxpayer bucks, as well as expand public education and efforts to memorialize and share the true reasons and rationale for each of these significant holidays. I’m not speaking simply of sanguine moments of shared prayer, but instead a few more events and traditions of shared celebration…giving the U.S. more things which focus on our unity and reunification as a people and a nation, versus all of this ongoing division and discord. Now that’s a holiday objective that I could really get behind and excited about. Perhaps consider adding that to your own family traditions in a few weeks on Independence Day. Happy early Fourth!