Friday, February 16, 2007

Presidential Birthday

To an active external commerce the protection of a naval force is indispensable….But besides this, it is in our own experience that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag requires a naval force organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war by discouraging belligerent powers….

President George Washington
Eighth Annual Message to Congress
December 1796


Americans started celebrating George Washington’s birthday when George was still around to blow out his own candles. Congress did not make it official until 1885. Back then they celebrated on the actual day - February 22nd. It was not until 1968, when Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act, that it became Washington’s “Getaway-Go Shopping-Three Days Off from Work” Birthday.

Some states had also celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s February 12th birth date – those outside the confederacy anyway. When Congress moved its federal Washington B-day to Monday, most states moved their Lincoln party schedule also.

The calendar changes were confusing and many believe the holiday is now a celebration for both presidents. Presidents Day is what appears on most calendars. The New York Stock Exchange correctly calls it Washington’s Birthday, but the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq both list “Presidents Day” as a day of closure.

Most people view the third Monday in February as a convenient pause before the Easter holiday. It is a great weekend for a ski trip or an extra day to catch up on house cleaning or shopping. For investors in the U.S. markets it is a welcome breather from the day-in, day-out pressures of trading. In my view, U.S. markets should take more holidays.


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