McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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February 17, 2013

Area offices close for federal holiday

McALESTER — A number of offices in the McAlester area will be closed Monday for George Washington’s birthday, which is an official federal and state holiday.

Yep, Monday’s holiday is officially called Washington’s birthday by the federal government, even though it’s not celebrated on his actual birthday and the holiday is often called by the misnomer of President’s Day.

McAlester City Hall will be closed Monday for the holiday, said Shannon Johnston, a receptionist at the desk in the front lobby of the building. Essential city services, such as police, ambulance and fire protection, will continue, with City Hall set to open for regular hours at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The Pittsburg County Courthouse will also be closed Monday for the holiday, said Sandra Crenshaw in the Pittsburg County commissioners’ office. Plans call for the courthouse to reopen for regular hours Tuesday at 8 a.m.

In addition, the windows at the U.S. Postal Service in McAlester will be closed Monday, said clerk Ira Wilcox. The lobby will remain open so those with post office boxes inside the building can check their mail, but there will be no home or business mail delivery from the U.S. Postal Service on Monday. Post offices will open Tuesday for regular business hours.

In addition to being a federal holiday, Monday is an official state holiday for the state of Oklahoma, so look for state and federal offices to be closed.

Also, classes will not be held at McAlester Public Schools on Monday.

However, plans call for the McAlester Public Library to remain open for the holiday.

“We’re open Monday, from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.,” said Children’s Librarian Anita Ross — which will give all of those students, city, county, state and federal employees something to do on their day off.

Meanwhile, the National Archives website explains some of the confusion surrounding the holiday.

Washington’s birthday is now always celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday in February — one of 11 permanent holidays established by Congress.

Washington had been born in Virginia on Feb. 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar in use at the time.

However, in 1752, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which placed Washington’s birth date on Feb. 22, 1732 — which made his new official birth date not only 11 days later in February, but a year later as well, moving the official year of his birth from 1731 to 1732.

Many Americans loved their first president and spontaneously celebrated his birthday on Feb. 22 deep into  the 20th century.

That changed in 1968, when Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays,” according to the National Archives. “By creating more three-day weekends, Congress hoped to ‘bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”’

A provision in the 1968 measure changed the observance of Washington’s Birthday from Feb. 22nd to the third Monday in February

“Ironically, this guaranteed that the holiday would never be celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21,” the National Archives website states.

“Contrary to popular belief, neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington’s Birthday be changed to ‘President’s Day.’”

Either the state of Oklahoma didn’t get the memo or decided to name the holiday itself, because the holiday celebrated in the Sooner State on the third Monday in February is called President’s Day, according to the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s website.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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