If Columbus Day for you is a time to stock up on towels – or better yet, get out of town – you’re in good company. And you’re doing exactly what Congress wanted you to do back in 1968, when it passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act: spend money.
“Well there was very strong support in Congress, but the initiative came from the tourism and vacation interests,” says Gerald Friedman, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Groups like the hotel industry lobby and the American Automobile Association, he says. You could see why hotels that would normally be dead on a Sunday night would be all about this. “It was a very conscious decision that we wanted to promote vacations and leisure, and people felt a three-day holiday would lead to more traveling,” he says.
And it has. During a typical three-day weekend, AAA estimates more than 34 million Americans hit the road. And even if people don’t leave town, there’s always the mall. “So we have things like Veterans Day sales, we have Columbus Day sales, we have Memorial Day sales,” says John McNamara, senior education fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The National Retail Federation doesn’t track sales over Monday holidays, but they’re big shopping days.
McNamara says there’s a downside: people are so busy spending, they forget why they have the day off. They don’t think about what makes the day historically significant. That’s one reason Veteran’s Day was shifted back from a Monday holiday to its traditional Nov. 11.
So, if this stuff isn’t set in stone, maybe more three-day weekends are in store. “I’m kinda waiting for them to move Fourth of July to a Monday,” McNamara laughs.
But he says don’t plan that Fourth of July weekend getaway just yet, because it’s not likely to change.
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