Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Least of Holidays

Leif Erikson Day has come and gone, and are we better for it? No, wait, that was Columbus Day (Observed). Lilly and Ann weren't in school yesterday, and we didn't get any mail. Except for those things, Columbus Day around here might as well be Leif Erikson Day.

The first U.S. president to proclaim a Columbus Day holiday was Benjamin Harrison, who did so for the 400th anniversary of the landing on San Salvador. Not, as you would think, on October 12, 1892, but instead on October 21, 1892. Columbus and his crew might have landed on October 12, but that was using the Julian calendar -- the Gregorian correction wasn't introduced to Catholic Europe until 1582, after all. In the 15th century, the difference between Julian and Gregorian would have been about nine days, so to be mathematically correct about the anniversary, you'd have to mark it on the 21st.

How learned of the Harrison administration. Or pedantic, take your pick.

The difference is still nine days, but clearly Congress wasn't interested in such subtleties when it created the federal holiday in 1937, so October 12 it is, at least until the holiday completely withers away, which we might live to see. But we still need some kind of holiday in October, to bridge Labor Day with Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving. Maybe Towel Day can be moved to October 12, since that's the anniversary of the publication of the first of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book in the series in 1979.

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