By Daniel Winningham
Earlier this week was an opportunity to observe one of the 11 federally recognized holidays. Sunday, June 19, was Juneteenth Independence Day. Most government or private businesses that observe this holiday closed offices Monday, June 20.
Juneteenth was first declared a federal holiday in 2021, so it’s probably understandable that many don’t know much about it. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to free slaves and the Confederate army officially surrendered in April 1865. However, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that word reach enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.
The previous two paragraphs are probably more than anyone over the age of 30 ever learned about Juneteenth at school.
How many federal and state holidays are there? The answer is 11, and there really isn’t much wiggle room in terms of eliminating any of them. Every month of the year has at least one, except for March, April and August. No one is calling for the abolishment of Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. The correct answer for state employees in Missouri and Illinois is 13, though, since Missouri offices were closed for Lincoln’s Birthday (Feb. 11 this year) and were also closed for Truman Day the second Monday in May. Eight presidents were born in Ohio (all between 1841 and 1921) yet there are no state holidays in honor of them. Illinois also recognizes Lincoln’s Birthday and calls General Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8) a state holiday. A quick look at the federal holiday listing for 2022 shows 11 days, with eight of those on a Monday.
Perry County’s neighbors to the north, Ste. Genevieve County, took action earlier this month to not observe Columbus Day and instead observe Juneteenth. Columbus Day was referred to as the “weakest” and “lamest” of the bunch. Nineteen U.S. cities are either named Columbus or Columbia, including the capitals of Ohio and South Carolina, and his namesake is a part of seven U.S. counties. At this time, there are 21 states that recognize Columbus Day as a holiday. Two more, New Mexico and Maine, recognize Indigenous Peoples Day while the holiday’s name in South Dakota is Native Americans Day. Colorado has changed the name to Cabrini Day, in recognition of Frances Xavier Cabrini, born in 1850, who apparently formed more than 60 schools, hospitals and orphanages in the U.S. as well as South and Central America.
Of course, many municipalities across the country shun Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day. For example, Louisville, Ky. and Bloomington, Ill. go with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
It’s great to have holidays. The more the merrier, I suppose. Mother’s Day is always the second Sunday in May. Father’s Day was this past Sunday. Patriot Day is Sept. 11 (not to be confused with Patriots’ Day, which occurs the third Monday of April each year in the New England area, and is marked with battle re-enactments as well as the Boston Marathon). Constitution Day occurs each year on Sept. 17. George Washington Carver Day is Jan. 5. Daniel Boone Day was June 7.
Generating enough grassroots support to move the conversation from just a commemorative day to a federally recognized holiday can be a tall order. Perhaps instead of finding additional holidays that need added so employees get an extra off day during the week, there could be more of an effort put into learning more about the country’s past? Reflect on the history and find unique ways to recognize of observe it. And, by the way, how many U.S. citizens could pass the citizenship exam?
Daniel Winningham is the managing editor of the Republic-Monitor. He can be reached at 573-547-4567, ext. 227 or email email@example.com.
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