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All Work & No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy ~ A Focus On President’s Day

The above proverb means without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring. The exact origins of the phrase remain unclear, though it was recorded as early as 1659. (However, we don’t know who “Jack” is). We do know many are working more and enjoying less time off.

Let’s begin with this month. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems to me that many moons ago, we used to get off work on both Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb. 12, and Washington’s Birthday, Feb. 22. Then somebody came along in 1951 and created President’s Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February, to honor all persons who served in the office of president of the United States and a federal holiday specifically honoring George Washington.

Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, the Feb. 22 holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. That’s all well and good, but we lost one holiday in the process of combining the two president’s birthdays into one holiday celebration.

Not only that, for the past two years, both Christmas and New Year’s Day occurred on a weekend so many lost getting two days off from work as well. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was employed for both Christmas and New Year’s for government and city workers but many other businesses were open as usual on Friday and Monday. It doesn’t matter to me, I’m retired. And it also doesn’t concern those who have to work on weekends to include food service employees, delivery and transportation workers, entertainment personnel, healthcare workers, fire and police department services, and many, many others.

For some reason I remember a book I was assigned to read in college. It’s called, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper. He reveals that the Greeks and medieval Europeans understood the great value and importance of leisure. It has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture, Pieper wrote.

He maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for non-activity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture — and ourselves. Pieper’s message for us is plain. The idolatry of the machine, the worship of mindless know-how, the infantile cult of youth and the common mind — all this points to our peculiar leadership in the drift toward the slave society.

Maybe we need more time off from work, especially since many folks now are working from home with little attention paid to a clock or the day of the week. We need some free time to read, pursue a hobby or talent, take a walk or just meditate.

So, let’s look at the remaining 10 months of the coming year. There are no three-day leisure opportunities in March even with St. Pat’s Day falling on a Friday and the first day of Spring on a Monday. In April, Easter is on Sunday but the Uniform Monday Holiday Act does not apply to all workers and many will have to work on Monday. It’s the same with Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 14. We do get a three-day weekend, however, since Memorial Day is on Monday, May 29.

Again, in June, Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is observed on Sunday, June 19, with no Monday celebration to create a three-day weekend.

In July, the fourth is on a Tuesday so that’s all we get, no three-day weekend.

On my calendar for August, it lists a civic holiday on Monday, Aug. 7, in Canada. That would be a three-day weekend for us but evidently, we don’t observe it. The calendar doesn’t even say what the “civic holiday” is.

Ah, good old September. Labor Day is observed on Monday, Sept. 4, giving workers a three-day weekend. One week later on Monday, September 11, we observe Patriot Day, but few employers grant their personnel that day off.

On Oct. 9, a Monday, there are all kinds of observances. There’s Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day in the USA, and Thanksgiving Day in Canada. But with Columbus fast becoming less popular as THE Discoverer of America, we don’t think we’ll be observing a three-day weekend. The following week it’s National Boss Day on Monday, Oct. 16. Again, we don’t see many bosses giving their work staff the day off. In fact, most bosses probably will take the occasion to give themselves a three-day holiday.

Things are not any better in November. Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 5, but there will be no special three-day observance. And, of course, Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 23, might allow some generous employers to grant their workers a total of four days off.

Finally, we reach the holiday season with Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Monday. And guess what? That gives us two three-day weekends – finally – and, hopefully, more leisure time.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer