Who doesn’t like a holiday? Everyone has their list of holidays they celebrate — some with more enthusiasm than others, and they all fall into a few, overlapping categories — religious, family, historical, silly, etc. The sub-category I wish to discuss is U.S. Federal Holidays. These days are recognizable for Americans because the banks are closed and, for some who work, it is ‘time-and-a-half’ pay.
Currently, the U.S. government recognizes 10 Federal holidays for Americans. They are New Year’s Day (Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Day (3rd Monday in January), President’s Day (3rd Monday In February), Memorial Day (Last Monday in May), Fourth of July (July 4th — obviously I hope), Labor Day (1st Monday in September), Columbus Day (2nd Monday in October — sadly), Veteran’s Day (November 11th), Thanksgiving (4th Thursday in November), and Christmas (December 25th). Even if you are like me, and find “Columbus’s discovery of America” as unworthy, you still gladly take the day off of work with everyone else.
The United States, unlike almost every other developed country, has no actual mandatory holiday or vacation time mandated for both public and private employers. In the United States, it is solely left to the discretion of the employer. Business leaders think they already provide enough leave and restitution, while politicians believe in a non-interference policy in how businesses operate. All of this results in long hours and less free time for the average American worker. It is a travesty but not one to discuss.
I am only here to give my suggestions on 10 Potentially New Holidays
10. Halloween — October 31st
“All Hallows’ Eve” is just a personal favorite, and there is no rule that says holidays must be solemn affairs. Halloween is simply fun. Over the years it has evolved into one of the premiere holidays on the calendar that both children and adults look forward to. In 2019, as many as 69% of Americans planned on passing out candy and a total of 172 million Americans were going to participate in some way. The rise of pop culture in the 1980s and trick-or-treat go together. I can still remember dressing up as C-3PO and He-Man and running door-to-door as quickly as I could for the tiny, 3-hour collection window.
Additionally, the economic boost to the American economy is nothing to be frightened of either. In 2018, The National Retail Federation said the average retail spending per person was $86.27 at $9 billion (GDP of Haiti is only $8.4 billion). To say that Halloween is a significant contributor to the American economy would not be a gross exaggeration. Think of both, the economic and moral boost, if Americans could spend the entire day mired in frightening festivities? Office morale would be spooky high on November 1st.
9. Earth Day — April 22nd
Earth Day would seem like a no-brainer as a Federal holiday. Clean water, breathable air, and pollution-free land should be a goal to which all Americans should strive, after all, as the saying goes, “We only have one planet!” Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in support of environmental protection. Both sadly and disturbingly, policies that have tried to create a cleaner world for everybody are now politicized.
Mention Earth Day in the wrong crowd and you will suddenly hear it lumped together with the Environmental Protection Agency and climate change as liberal pseudoscience and propaganda. The true enemy is apparently the National Audubon Society (please note the sarcasm)! Even if one doesn’t believe in climate change, celebrating Earth Day should be encouraged. Coming together to clean up the planet and protect nature should have always been a bi-partisan effort and never politicized.
8. Immigration/Flag Day — 2nd Sunday in June
I took a little liberty here in combining the two holidays. Normally, Flag Day is celebrated on the 2nd Sunday in June. It exists as a celebration of the day that the Stars and Stripes was adopted as America’s national flag. Flag Day is a nice patriotic holiday that often loses its luster because, usually, Memorial Day is only 2 ½ weeks earlier while the Fourth of July is only 2 weeks later. Communities across the country simply lack the finances to spend on a third day of parades and fireworks within a month.
National Immigrants Day is a little-known day that falls on October 28th of every year. It was founded to reflect on just how unique the American melting pot is among the world’s counties. Immigration has been the backbone of this country since its 1776 founding. With that in mind, why not combine them into one holiday where we celebrate both the uniqueness and the melting pot of American culture. There is a yin and yang aspect to it, and I can foresee many flags waving. We Americans should be moved by the distinct ethnic cultures that make up America and the patriotic spirit that develops as they combine.
7. Exploration Day — August 14th
Okay, I just made this holiday up in my head, and I arbitrarily picked a date in August because there are few Federal holidays during the Summer months. Hear me out for a second. Columbus Day has become so very controversial. Year after year, we learn that Christopher Columbus seems to have been a crappy human being, and as we all now know, he never really ‘discovered’ the New World. Essentially, Columbus’s most notable accomplishment was beginning the Age of Exploration. The Age of Exploration is still not without its own controversy. European explorers took the land from the indigenous populations and that should be something that will always need remembering. Still, people are drawn to the adventure aspect of the age.
Also, Exploration Day would go beyond our American shores to off-world adventures, including those to the stars. There is no doubt that Neil Armstrong’s lunar landing on July 20, 1969, is one of the finest days, not only in American but in world history. Instilling that adventurous spirit and drive in America’s youth should be encouraged but tempered by what dangers can arise when unrestrained.
6. Civil Rights Day — April 11th
Again, another holiday with a specifically chosen purpose and date. America can never celebrate civil rights enough. April 11th was the day that The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed that bans discrimination in housing. However, Civil Rights Day would be so much more than that. It would be a day to honor Civil Rights activists from all walks of life Thurgood Marshall, Dolores Huerta, Barbara Gittings, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, etc. It would be easy to say that all ethnicities and all the activists deserve their own unique day, but then Federal Holidays would become overwhelmed and meaningless.
Instead, we could take the time to honor all of those who made America great on April 11th. Every year, a few individuals could be selected, and their life’s work can be highlighted. Civil Rights activists, many times are unknown, even within their various communities. This could become the day we remember their contributions and sacrifices.
5. Constitution Day — September 17th
There is no doubt to anyone that Americans are patriotic. Flags, songs, pledges, parades, fireworks, etc., WE LOVE to celebrate America! This is why it is surprising that one of the two most important documents in American history fails to receive the significant recognition it deserves. The United States Constitution, and more specifically The Bill of Rights, defines our country and what we value. It is emulated by dozens of other countries as a blueprint for building a government.
This is not to say that the Constitution is perfect. It is dated, rigid, and difficult to modify. Still, it embodies America’s best points. Often, I hear people say, “I would die for the flag,” and honestly, I am a little disheartened. I don’t believe that is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They risked their lives for the principles written in the document, and not symbols like flags. I do believe that the rights inscribed within the Constitution are worth dying. It is why the ratification date deserves to be remembered as a holiday.
4. Women’s Day — March 8th
International Women’s Day is March 8th, and that would fit nicely into a calendar of Federal holidays. It is no secret that 50% of the population has been criminally underappreciated since America’s founding in 1776. Now, there are other days of recognition for various women — Rosa Parks Day (Feb. 4), Susan B. Anthony Day (Feb. 15), Harriet Tubman Day (March 10), Helen Keller Day (June 27), and Women’s Equality Day (Aug. 26), but nothing national. A Federal holiday honoring all women would be a nice step.
Those women who fought for the right to vote or equal pay deserve a day of appreciation and remembrance. Women were never weaker, and perhaps, a day of recognition will help offset the inferiority that they have often been treated. A nice touch would be if only women received the day off!
3. Indigenous People’s Day — October 12th
Indigenous People’s Day falls on the second Monday of October and has gained popularity in recent years as a replacement for the controversial Columbus Day. Native Americans are often a forgotten people in American history. Millions lost their land, language, and culture. They were routinely betrayed by the government of the United States in its bid for Manifest Destiny. Unfortunately, history is what it is and there will be no going back. We can only honor and try to show appreciation for what was taken from Native Americans.
Even today, quality of life is poor on a reservation. Many tribes live hundreds of miles from their original, ancestral homes on arid land rife with poverty and crime. They deserve to be treated so much better. Perhaps, appreciation can come in the form of a National Day honoring the original settlers and their culture. It can be a solemn day of celebration for Americans.
Sure, it would be nice to have 10 more Federal holidays, but it is these last two that should long have been celebrated. These are worth writing your Congressman.
2. Emancipation Day / Juneteenth — June 19th
There are a few states that celebrate an Emancipation Day, but they all fall on different dates. However, recently one has stood out, Juneteenth. As its name sounds the day falls on June 19th and it began in Texas in 1865. It is the day the Union army arrived in the city of Galveston. Not surprisingly, the slave owners had neglected to inform the slaves that they had been set free. Gen. Gordon Granger and the Union Army soon rectified the issue and proceeded to notify the African-Americans of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation order to the newly emancipated. For the next 100+ years, Juneteenth was celebrated in relative obscurity by the black community as it was hampered by Jim Crow laws and Lost Cause teachings.
However recently, Juneteenth has reached mainstream prominence in recent years. By far, slavery was the darkest event in American history, and there is no telling America’s story without discussing the horrors of slavery. Abolition should be celebrated as a great accomplishment. We must never forget the travesty and crimes heaped upon the ancestors of our fellow citizens. Human as chattel is evil, so we should celebrate overcoming evil.
1. Election Day — 1st Tuesday in November
It is quite simple; nothing is more important to a citizen than the right to vote. Disturbingly, voter suppression is alive and well in America. An American should not have to choose between working to feed their family and voting. There are always major issues on ballots. Often, individuals are misled into voting only once every 4-years. There is a mistaken belief that only the Presidency matters. The reality is that the minor officeholders and local issues, usually, have more influence in a voter’s day-to-day life.
Voter participation is important to any democracy and should be encouraged. The easier to vote the better. Mandating it an annual holiday would make it easier. An increase in voters means an increase in voting locations which results in greater access. Many countries, far less democratic than ours, give their citizens the day off to vote. Why is America so hesitant to do the same? At night, as the results are read, there can be victory parties. Turning Election Day into a paid, public holiday would be a celebration of American democracy!
Those are just my suggestions. If anyone else has suggestions for U.S. holidays, feel free to leave a message. You don’t even have to be American!