Some students and their teachers may be a little bleary-eyed Monday after having rushed back from visiting friends and family on Easter.
That wasn’t the original plan for traditional-calendar schools in Wake, Johnston and Orange counties. Easter Monday was going to be a day off before the bad winter weather turned it into a makeup day. And decades ago, every student in North Carolina would have had Easter Monday off; it was an official state holiday.
“Easter Monday is all but forgotten now,” Gary Freeze, a history professor at Catawba College in Salisbury in Rowan County, said of the former state holiday. “It’s out of the public consciousness.”
But from 1935 to 1987, Easter Monday and not Good Friday was an official holiday in North Carolina.
The reason for the Easter Monday recognition was that it coincided with the annual N.C. State-Wake Forest University baseball game in Raleigh. State legislators wanted to give state employees the day off to watch the game.
“It was one of the biggest events held in North Carolina,” then-N.C. Secretary of State Thad Eure said in a 1984 News & Observer story. “Everybody closed up shop and went to the ballgame.”
The teams stopped playing the game on Easter Monday after 1956, when Wake Forest left Wake County for Winston-Salem. But Easter Monday didn’t lose its holiday status in favor of Good Friday until 1988. The move finally came after the banking industry successfully lobbied against it on the grounds that it was hurting them to be closed Easter Monday while banks were open in the other 49 states.
Freeze, 61, who has written about the Easter Monday baseball games, said fewer and fewer people in the state remember that long-running tradition.
“It’s as obsolete as a log cabin,” he said.
Some school districts still try to give families Easter Monday off, but it’s not because it’s a vestige of the former holiday.
Tracey Peedin Jones, a Johnston County schools spokeswoman who sits on the district’s calendar committee, said it’s been pointed out that many teachers came from out of state. She said that making Easter Monday a day off would allow those employees, and families of students as well, more time to get back from their Easter travel.
For the same reason, Larry Nilles, the president of the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators and a member of Wake’s school calendar committee, said that when possible planners try not to schedule classes on Easter Monday.
But all that foresight came to naught when bad weather caused so many cancellations that Easter Monday was needed as a regular school day. While the day off would be nice, Peedin Jones said, teachers will be focused on doing their best for students.
“We’re looking forward to finishing the school year strong,” she said.