December 11, 2019 10:50:21 AM
Here of late, I've been beginning to question a number of things that I have more or less taken for granted.
For example, in Charlotte's Web, why is it that the people in the town see a message spun into a spider's web and immediately credit the pig for the work? Who in their right mind would conclude, "Gee, here is a name carefully spun into a spider's web. Clearly, this must be the work of...a pig!"
That's like crediting Trump for the economy: It defies reason.
Me? I'd be looking for that resourceful spider, who did all the work yet received none of the credit.
My questioning goes beyond children's stories.
Now that we are smack dab between our nation's two biggest holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas - I have questions about both.
Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday, of all days? And why is Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25 with no regard to what day that falls on?
This year, Thanksgiving was held on a Thursday as usual and Christmas will be celebrated on a Wednesday, which is even a worse day. In both cases, there's no prospect for a long holiday weekend, which I think we can say with certainty that everyone approves of. People love holiday weekends, which allows for an even greater celebration. No one would say, "Let's have Labor Day on a Tuesday" or "Memorial Day should be held on a Wednesday." You wouldn't get a single vote for that.
So how did Thursday wind up as the preferred choice for Thanksgiving anyway?
We have no idea what day the original Thanksgiving fell on, but we do know the practice of setting aside a day for "giving thanks" was common, although not an annual event celebrated on a particular day. Most often, the day was called for after some significant event, say the end of a drought or winning a big battle, events that fostered a spirit of gratitude.
The first official national Thanksgiving was approved by Congress in 1783 when President Washington called for a day of Thanksgiving for Nov. 26, which turned out to be the last Thursday of November.
Nobody really knows why. That's just the day he picked and, since Washington could do no wrong, the practice stuck.
It's important to note that the folks of Washington's time didn't operate on a five-day work week, so the "long weekend" as we know it wasn't a thing. It would have made far more sense in Washington's day to celebrate Thanksgiving on a Saturday, which would have given workers a two-day holiday, but no.
Even so, there was some tinkering done. In 1939, President Roosevelt moved the holiday to Nov. 23 instead of the last Thursday of the month (Nov. 30) in order to expand the Christmas holiday shopping season. Since then, the fourth Thursday of the month has stuck.
Canada, by the way, celebrates its Thanksgiving Day on a Monday (second Monday of October). That works, too.
Since FDR established the precedent for changing the time of Thanksgiving, I propose legislation that would move Thanksgiving to the fourth Friday of November. Vote for me and enjoy another long weekend. That's an idea a candidate could run on, and I'm surprised no one has thought of it.
I think Christmas would also benefit from a date change and I can find nothing on the historical record that suggest this would be any sort of heresy.
Although Christians celebrate Christmas as the day of Christ's birth, by now most people know that the date was an arbitrary choice. Based on the scant information available, religious scholars generally believe Christ was born sometime in the spring. Dec. 25, therefore, has no real significance.
But this year, Christmas falls on a Wednesday, which means only the most generous of employers afford their workers the pleasure of an extended holiday weekend. That's true also when Christmas falls on a Tuesday or Thursday. When it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, folks usually get Friday or Monday off. So that means, 43 percent of the time, we're all headed back to work the day after Christmas. Bah humbug, right?
So let's do the logical thing. When we see a message in a spider's web, let's stop looking around for a literate pig. Likewise, let's let reason prevail and move Thanksgiving and Christmas to Fridays so all of us can enjoy two more long holiday weekends.
I'm just not seeing the downside to this.
Who's with me?
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]