back to top

MIKE KEELER: A Bit of Holiday Confusion . . .

It’s a long weekend; it’s about time.
King Henry VIII was a destroyer. His Wife #1, Catherine of Aragon, gave him only a daughter, named Mary, so he divorced her. This brought on the wrath of the Pope, got Henry excommunicated, created the Church of England, and broke Christendom in two. His Wife #2, Anne Boleyn, committed the same offense by producing only a second daughter, Elizabeth, so Henry had her head cut off. Wife #3, Jane Seymour, gave him the Heir he craved, named Edward, but she died soon after. And Wives #4, #5 and #6 failed to produce a Spare, before Henry died.
Elizabeth Tudor was a survivor. Her younger half-brother Edward succeeded her father Henry, but only ruled until his untimely death at 15. Her older half-sister Mary then became Queen, and as the daughter of Catherine she tried to return England to Catholicism, earning her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ before she died of the flu. Whereupon Elizabeth, only 25 years old, ascended to the throne, and was dubbed, ‘The Virgin Queen.’
Pope Gregor was a scientist. He suspected something was screwy, the calendar seemed to be slipping. His wise men concluded that the existing Julian calendar – created by Caesar way back in 65BC – hadn’t gotten its Leap Year calculations quite right. As a result, over the subsequent 15 centuries, the calendar had slipped backwards by 10 days. And so, Gregor accepted a quite radical proposal that resulted in this: in 1582, the date of October 4 was immediately followed by October 15! Just like that, POOF, 10 days gone, and Europe had jumped to the Gregorian calendar.
Queen Elizabeth was also a striver. As the head of England and its Church, she was determined to become the most powerful force on earth. Which put her into a life-or-death struggle with Catholic Spain. She would win the the ultimate victory, at the Battle of Gravelines, in 1588. But before that happened, when the rest of Europe made the Gregorian jump, she told the Pope to take his calendar and shove it.
All of which meant that, from 1582 onwards, the major powers fighting for control of planet Earth worked on two different official calendars, spaced 10 days apart. Which must have created some odd situations. For example, if you had sailed on a ship from Spanish Puerto Rico to English Tortola, you would travel in real time for about 1 day, and arrive at your destination about 9 days before you left.
***
George Washington was a time traveler. He was born in the English American colonies on February 11, 1731. And just when he turned 21, he experienced one of the most unique years imaginable. First, he was made a Commander of the Virginia Militia, in the run-up to the French and Indian War. Second, his older brother Lawrence died, and George inherited the extravagant mansion at Mount Vernon. And third – and most uniquely – he lost 11 days of his life. In 1752, England and its colonies finally recognized the superiority of the Gregorian calender and made the jump; September 2 was immediately followed by September 14 (the Julian calendar had slipped back another day since 1582).
Abraham Lincoln was a savior. He was born on February 12, 1809. He came from a place that few Americans knew much about. His critics called him, ‘The Gorilla.’ There were plans to kill him even before he took office. But he proved to be much more capable than folks ever expected. He saved the Union. He set enslaved folks free. And for this he was rewarded with a bullet to the head.
For the next hundred years, the struggle between the states continued, in the form of Reconstruction and the battle over civil rights, much of which went unresolved. In the victorious north, folks started recognizing Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday; the defeated south countered with a holiday celebrating Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who were born in January. And the national holiday everyone could agree on – celebrating George Washington – came with its own complication: should it fall on his original birthday of February 11 (Julian calendar) or the recalculated date of February 22 (Gregorian calendar)?
This feud of festivities continued for a century. But then, finally, in 1968, Congress decided to do something about it. It passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which standardized the dates of several contentious holidays. And, in their fractured wisdom, the representatives of these United States decided that, going forward, there would be a holiday on the third Monday in February, and that it would be called, ‘George Washington’s Birthday.’
Which means two things. First, in regards to Abraham Lincoln – our second most admired President – he gets, well, he gets bupkis. His name isn’t on the holiday – thanks to the votes of the cynical southern states, it’s technically not ‘President’s Day’, Abe’s got nothing to do with it – and it’s a week or so after his birthday.
Second, in regards to George Washington – the father of our nation – the day is all about him. But in a completely confounded calendar conformation, the third Monday of the month can only fall between the 15th and the 21st.
And so, yippee, we head to the long weekend. It’s time to celebrate Washington’s Birthday! The holiday that can never fall on Washington’s birthday.
Either one of them.
Mike Keeler

– Mike Keeler

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles