Ashley has a calendar which, like most calendars, identifies all the federal holidays. It lists a handful of them twice, actually. Like Memorial Day, which gets both yesterday — designated “Memorial Day” — and today — “Memorial Day (Observed)”.
What’s that “(Observed)” bullshit all about? If we observe Memorial Day today, doesn’t that make today Memorial Day? We’re not dealing with universal absolutes here. There’s only a Memorial Day at all because we decided there ought to be one. And if most of us think that Memorial Day is on Monday instead of Sunday, guess what that means?
It means Memorial Day is today. But not everyone thinks that, hence the calendar. Let me try to explain.
This is all the fault of the United States Congress. See, Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it was more often called back then) began after the Civil War as a way to honor the dead by placing flowers and other decorations on their graves, and taking time to reflect on their sacrifices. The first few years it was observed on May 5, but then was moved around when the organizers of various local Decoration Days decided they didn’t want it held on the anniversary of a Civil War battle (the Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5, 1864). Instead, they started holding Decoration Day on May 30.
May 30 became the traditional date for Decoration Day, which came to be called Memorial Day more and more after World War II. Finally, in 1967, Congress officially declared May 30 to be Memorial Day.
Then they changed it a year later.
The problem with giving holidays fixed dates — May 30, say — is that those dates fall on different days of the week every year. And it’s hard to justify giving yourself an extra-long Memorial Day weekend if Memorial Day is on Wednesday — or worse yet, Saturday. Know what I mean? So in 1968, having just officially designated the traditional May 30 date for Memorial Day, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved Memorial Day from May 30 to “the last Monday in May.” It also moved Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October, but this raised a lot of hell of the “put it back!” variety among cranky old vets, what with the traditional date being the anniversary of the end of the Great War and all, so they moved it back to November 11 after only a few years.
Memorial Day’s new date stuck, though, and we’ve all been happily celebrating it on the last Monday in May ever since by flying flags, eating hot dogs, and buying discounted merchandise at fine retailers all across this great land.
All except spoilsports like Senator Daniel Inouye, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient who has spent the last half of his nearly 60-year career in the U.S. Senate trying to get Memorial Day moved back to May 30, citing some bullshit about how it’s supposed to be a day to honor our war dead, not to get off work and go to the beach. Whatever, dude.
So that’s why Ashley’s calendar has two Memorial Days. The second one is the real Memorial Day, the one most of observe today. The other one is the old Memorial Day that nobody except those interested in memorializing fallen soldiers pays any attention to anymore.