First Thursday in July

There has been a trend over the past couple of decades to normalize holidays to certain more convenient days of the week, generally a Monday or Friday, so that workers can have three-day weekends. One notable exception to this trend is Independence Day, which is still date-based rather than day-of-the-week-based.

I think that we should change how we officially define Independence Day to reflect the calendar of 1776, when it was on a Thursday. That is, we should celebrate the founding of the nation using the calendar of the year when it was founded, on the first Thursday in July.

This would create a situation almost identical to that of Thanksgiving, which is also on a certain Thursday. That is, the official holiday would be on Thursday, but most workers would arrange things so that they could take a four-day weekend.

The biggest question is, would an Independence Day defined as a certain date, the date when the Declaration of Indepencence was signed, July 4th, 1776, be more meaningful as a national holiday than one defined in terms of the day of the week when the same Declaration was signed in that year. It seems to me that the two definitions are completely equivalent in terms of meaningfulness. That is, there would be no loss, no gain in that dimension.

The secondary question is, would it harm the nation to make the switch from a date-based definition to a weekday-based one. This is a bit more complicated, because there are two ways to answer the question. The easy answer is that it will not, because they same transposition has already occurred with, for example, Presidents' Day. This is clear. The more complicated answer is whether it would affect things like salary and leave computations. In this case, I believe that it will make things easier, not harder: each year would be the same, because salary and leave are generally calculated on a weekly basis.

In summary, I believe that we could achive a significant improvement in our enjoyment of Independence Day, with no loss of patriotic meaning, by redefining the day to match the weekday when the Declaration was signed in 1776 rather than the calendar date. On the other hand, it seems pretty unlikely to me that this will ever happen.

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