Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pseudo holiday?

The USA had a holiday today (Monday there). But is it a real one? And, if so, what’s it called?

The holiday is Presidents’ Day. Or, President’s Day. Or, Presidents Day. Or, just to throw a curve, George Washington’s Birthday. It turns out there’s no agreement on what the day should be called—or how to punctuate it.

My sister tipped me to an article on Yahoo! News that referred to something published on the site of a firm called Geometrx. They reported that 41 US states observe Washington, Lincoln or a Presidents’ Day holiday, with 38 of those observing a holiday on the third Monday in February. Nine states observe Washington’s Birthday only, and 24 observe Washington’s Birthday only. A further nine don’t observe any one of these holidays at all.

Confused? Well, how about the fact that this applies only to states? The federal government observes a federal holiday on the third Monday in February, and that means that federally-chartered banks, the post office and federal offices are all closed—even in states that don’t observe a holiday on that date. To confuse people even more, for the federal government, it’s Washington’s Birthday.

Here’s some more confusion, from the Yahoo! story:
The real challenge is sorting through the varying punctuation of “presidents”–it’s enough to make any copy editor dizzy. In 17 states it’s Presidents’ Day (plural possessive), in five states it’s Presidents Day (plural), and in four states it’s President’s Day (singular possessive). Much to the chagrin of copy editors, there is nothing close to national consensus on the pseudo-holiday’s name.
The main reason that the name of the holiday stuck, again according to Yahoo!, is that car dealers adopted it in the 1970s as a good day for sales and promotions. Other retailers followed suit and the rest is, well, history—even though the day isn’t.

When I lived in Illinois, I seldom got Presidents’ (etc.) Day off. But schools, state and local government offices DID close on February 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday it’s that whole “Land of Lincoln” thing), but I only got that off when I was in school.

So, whatever they call the day, I hope my friends and family in the USA had a nice third Monday in February!

Tip o’ the Hat to Amerinz’s Sis