One thing leads to another, especially in the Age of the Internet, so I recently learned a few things about America’s official national holidays.
First: Even though some states celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, it’s never been an official national holiday (blame the South). I thought it was, because when I was growing up in California, we got the day off from school. Now, unfortunately, it’s only a holiday in four states. California isn’t one of them.
Second: The lame national holiday widely known as Presidents Day, which I thought commemorated Presidents Washington and Lincoln, isn’t actually called “Presidents Day”. As far as the federal government is concerned, it’s Washington’s Birthday. Even though it never falls on the day Washington was born.
Third: This means we only have four national holidays devoted to individuals: George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus of Nazareth.
I’ve always been especially good at remembering Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday because they both come along in the middle of February. That’s when my father was born. It’s also when there’s another family anniversary that’s best kept private.
So here’s the mid-February lineup:
February 12th is Lincoln’s birthday, the 16th was my father’s, the 18th is that other important anniversary, and the 22nd is Washington’s. And of course the 14th is (Saint) Valentine’s Day. That’s the 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th and 22nd.
But, as you can see, I’ve got nothing for February 20th!
Further research revealed that all of this happened on the 20th of February:
1673 – The first recorded wine auction in London
1792 – The United States Postal Service was created
1872 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City
1927 – Golfers were arrested in South Carolina for violating the Sabbath (the South again!)
1962 – John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth
1974 – Cher filed for separation from her husband Sonny Bono
1975 – Margaret Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservative Party
Rather slim pickings, as we used to say. I’ve never been a fan of Sonny or Cher, and I always preferred Alan Shepherd (the first American in space) to John Glenn. And Margaret Thatcher is simply out of the question. Sadly, the past has let me down.
But there’s always the future.