I though Martin Luther King’s birthday was Jan. 15. But when I picked up a 2019 calendar, Martin Luther King Day is Jan. 21. Why didn’t the powers that be in the calendar world just make it Jan. 14 instead of arbitrary day a week later?
— Austin R., Medford
When we saw “calendar question” on your submission, Austin, the first thing we thought was Julian or Gregorian calendar, the proper day to celebrate Christmas or Easter. Thankfully, this one is much easier, even if a little bit confusing.
President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 establishing Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as national holiday. It is celebrated on the third Monday in January, and was first observed in 1986.
Because the day set aside to honor the famed civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner is a federal holiday it was shifted to a Monday — like many others — in order to provide a three-day weekend.
Still, holidays celebrated not by date (like July 4), but on specific day and week of a month can be maddening. Take Thanksgiving, for example, came at a much earlier date than usual this year, because the fourth Thursday fell on Nov. 22 — or eight days before December.
You can take some solace in that the MLK observance will get closer to the civil rights leader’s actual birthday over the next five years with Jan. 15 falling on the third Monday in 2024.
Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to email@example.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.