For years, until a succession of editors tired of the gag, I came to work each Sept. 9 complaining of the need to work on a holiday. What holiday? Admission Day, observing the date in 1850 here in Washington on which President Millard Fillmore signed the bill admitting my faraway home state to the union. The state and local governments traditionally shut down, along with schools, and the event was marked by festive, patriotic parades.
Alas, state holidays, such as Admission Day -- California's, in the case recounted above -- are fading.
According to the World Almanac, Oregon, Hawaii, North Carolina, Florida, Maine, West Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Arkansas, Vermont, Maryland, South Dakota and Nevada -- 14 states in all -- recognize some form of strictly state-related holiday. (Georgia observes a "day" of its own that isn't a holiday.) Hawaii has two holidays, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day and King Kamehameha I Day.
And various southern states recognize Robert E. Lee's Birthday or Confederate Heroes Day in January. Virginia, Lee's birthplace, incongruously has created a Lee-Jackson-King day, recognizing not only rebel generals Lee and Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson but that ultimate abolitionist, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well.
There is no District of Columbia holiday, as such, save that of King's birthday, soon to be a national observance.
There's a regrettable footnote here. This year, for the first time, Admission Day is not a state holiday in California, except in the court system. Unions representing state employes bargained away Admission Day in return for a four-day holiday over Thanksgiving weekend. So much for a holiday meaning something more than just time off.