Monday, October 13, 2014

The Second Monday of October?

"It's not garbage night. Tomorrow's a holiday."

That was me yelling to my downstairs neighbor out the window after I heard the rattle of trash bins being pulled down the driveway. Of course, I've done similar things before, and it's perfectly understandable: I mean, really, who actually celebrates Columbus Day? Its main use seems to be as "fall break" for college kids: I've never even had a job that recognized it as a company holiday.

So, while I appreciate the movement toward Indigenous Peoples Day as perhaps a more "just" variant on the same holiday... really, no one celebrates that either. ("No one" in this instance is intentionally hyperbolic, for effect; but it's basically a fact that very few people care beyond the philosophical.)

So this brings up the question of what holidays are actually used for, which should motivate a redistribution of them to more meaningful or useful times.

Is it celebration? There's a disconnect between holidays in the US and what events people actually celebrate. Some, such as Christmas and Memorial Day, are actually used as days of celebration by large numbers of people, regardless of whether the celebration is actually connected to the original purpose of those holidays; but some, such as Presidents Day and Columbus Day, achieve nothing more than a collective "Yay: a day off!" Why not a day like the Monday after Superbowl Sunday, when it would actually be useful for a ton of people whose livers are still working off the previous night's festivities?

So, is it time off? Disregarding the fact that many private sector workers don't get all US holidays off, there's also the problem that national holidays are distributed poorly for purposes of providing a freebie day every so often. Here are US federal holidays:

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • MLK Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)
  • Presidents Day (3rd Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas (December 25)

Look at how poorly distributed they are:

  • 3 in the space of four weeks (Christmas, New Year's, MLK Day), then one a month later, followed by a 3 month abyss until Memorial Day.
  • Only one in the middle of summer (July 4).
  • Finally, two in the colder part of autumn, after they would typically be useful for outdoor activity in large parts of the US.

If holidays are about time off, it seems they should be better distributed.

Purely for the sake of intellectual masturbation, let's free up some holidays for redistribution by eliminating some of them:

  • Presidents Day. Fuck them.
  • Columbus Day. Fuck him.
  • Veterans Day. Combine this with Memorial Day.

I would keep the others for the following reasons:

  • New Year's Day: people need this day for recovery.
  • MLK Jr. Day: poorly timed so close to New Year's, but an important holiday in the context of American race relations. I would maybe argue for moving it to some other significant date in American race relations.
  • Memorial Day: by far the more widely-celebrated of the two veterans' holidays, this should be expanded in scope to cover both.
  • Independence Day: the only summer holiday (summer=June, July, August) and an important holiday in the context of American self-determination.
  • Labor Day: not really celebrated for its own reasons anymore, but this is the traditional end-of-summer BBQ holiday.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas: important traditional family holidays.

Clearly one needs to be added for the Monday after Superbowl Sunday, which unfortunately now gets us back to 4 holidays in a month and a half, further arguing for moving MLK Jr. Day elsewhere; but let's just deal with that constraint.

So, now we need to deal with three major issues: the gap between Superbowl Monday and Memorial Day (3½ months), the singular summer holiday, and the nearly-3 month gap between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. We just freed up three holidays, but used one for Superbowl Monday, so we'll have to add one more federal holiday to cover all three of these issues. I therefore propose a spring Monday or Friday holiday at the end of March or the beginning of April, a summer Monday or Friday holiday in the beginning of August, and an autumn holiday in the middle of October.

Shit, now we're back to celebrating Columbus Day.

Fuck that. Instead, loosen the schedule slightly and make the holiday on October 31st, so parents can take their kids out trick-or-treating. Don't give it an official name, so people can call it Halloween or Samhain or whatever they like. If it becomes a federal holiday, you might even be able to move it to the Monday or Friday of the Oct 31/Nov 1 week and get the culture to move Halloween celebrations to match.

The final change I would make would be to move Independence Day to a Monday or Friday, so the number of 3-day weekends is maximized. Everyone knows the Declaration was adopted on the 4th, but what people really care about is a long weekend to go away or have guests and a huge barbecue, something that is hard to do in the middle of the week. Many companies already observe July 4 adjacent to either the previous or succeeding weekend. One might even argue for moving Thanksgiving to Friday, except that many companies already consider that Friday to be a company holiday, so moving it might actually reduce the amount of time off for the typical worker.

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