By Mary TuckerWay back when I was in school we always looked forward to February, anticipating Valentines Day and two days when school was closed; Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th and George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd. Two whole days when school was closed, two days from work for many parents; days used for shopping department store sales on white goods and clothing. It was the shortest month of the year. Every four years Leap Year, a day as custom had it, when a girl could ask a boy out on a date. Is it any wonder we liked February?
When the Tucker family came to Delaware County, schools were closed for Presidents’ week, usually the third week in February. At that time I worked at Bob Cat Ski Center as cafeteria manager; Dad did not have the week off so all my children skied while I worked. I had to be at the ski center at 8:00 AM, there was no sleeping in. It was up early to have breakfast, pack lunches, get ski clothing together. Everyone pitched in. Lifts opened at 9AM, closed at 4 PM, then there was clean up time and we arrived at home approximately at 6 PM, tired but pleased with a good day skiing. Each year everyone waited for Presidents’ week and hoped for lots of snow.
Many changes have come about since then; just one day to celebrate Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. On February 21, 1971, President Nixon issued a proclamation designating the third Monday in February to honor President Lincoln, President Washington and all presidents, past and present, thus including himself. This year, 2008, Presidents’ Day falls on February 18th; Andes Central School’s Winter Break, as the week is now called, is from the 18th through the 22nd of February.
Presidents’ Day is an official federal holiday but usage of Presidents Day has been inconsistent because federal holidays apply only to those employed by the Federal Government; individual states do not have to observe federal holidays but most states, school districts and private employers do. Some states still observe Lincoln and Washington’s’ birthdays separately, some only observe Washington’s birthday, and some observe a combined Lincoln-Washington Day. An odd exception is Alabama, which chose the third Monday in February to commemorate George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, even though Jefferson was born in April. Some states have gone so far as to move observance of Presidents Day to November or December to lengthen Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday periods, thus eliminating February’s paid holidays.
An attempt was made by Congress to clear up some of this confusion at the federal level by introducing the “Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001.” This bill would have named Washington’s birthday as a legal holiday and would have allowed the President to issue a proclamation pertaining to a Lincoln’s birthday observance. The bill failed to clear subcommittee and died without being voted on. So feel free to take your pick of what to celebrate in February; Washington’s birthday, Lincoln’s birthday, Presidents’ Day, all three days, Presidents’ week or Winter Break!! ~