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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Musings on America's newest Holy Day

Saints Days originated as a commemoration of the martyrdom of an ancient Christian. After the subsumation of Christianity into Doctrianity, there weren't so many martyrs to commemorate, so the custom arose of naming certain famous people as Saints, and devoting a certain day of the calendar year to their memory. Since it often wasn't known exactly when someone was born, the day of the saint's death was typically so memorialized. Somewhere along the line days (probably those that were still open to such designation) were also devoted to the Apostles. Before too many centuries had passed, every day on the calendar was so designated, and people born on a particular Saint's day were often given the name of that saint. So, it you happened to meet someone with the same christian name as you--especially if it were an otherwise obscure name--there was a good chance you shared the same birthday.

Well, in our modern society, where we no longer think of the etymological origin of the word 'holiday,' we don't commemorate the deaths of famous persons, but their births. Thus Hitler's Birthday on April 19 was the most sacred day of the year to Nazis and the peoples who submitted to their subjugation. To this day it is commemorated by the neo-nazis and their ilk. Martin Luther King, Jr's Birthday, on the other hand, is a day holy to those who oppose the neo-nazis and all they stand for. And, in an even more modern twist, since federal holidays--with diminishing exceptions--must always be on Monday, most years it's not even the anniversary of his actual birth that is commemorated, but simply the third Monday of the year. You see, since 1986 Martin Luther King Jr Day has been a federal holiday in America, and since 2000 also commemorated by all 50 states.

What was unusual about MLK Day this year was that it was the very first time that an American Presidential Inauguration was spread out over two consecutive holidays. The actual oath of office, as prescribed on January 23, 1933 by Amendment 20 to the constitution, must take place on January 20, even if it is a Sunday (the Sabbath first being violated for this purpose by Woodrow Wilson in 1917, previous presidents having taken the oath on either Saturday or Monday to avoid doing so). And so it was.

But, as is always the case when the prescribed day falls on a Sunday, the actual celebration took place the following day--a federal holiday.  Federal employees who typically get Inaguration day as a paid day off work were thus denied the opportunity to double-dip, and as a result got only 10 paid days off this year rather than the usual quadrennial eleven.

1 comment:

  1. The poor dears, I got exactly three. Unlike many of them, I have to work for a living.


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