Monday, February 21, 2011

Back in the "olden" days...

...when I was a kid, we used to celebrate both Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday.   First it was February 12 and February 22.  Then, somehow, we got two consecutive Monday holidays.  We loved it.  We loved learning about each of this amazing men and, of course, we loved getting two days off from school in February.   Then, something horrible happened...those celebrations morphed into "President's Day".   Two holidays became only ONE!  Life, however, went on and I never really thought much about these holidays and how they've changed since I was a young girl back in the olden days.  Until today...

Think about it.

One of these amazing men helped give us America.  The other helped us save America.  We were introduced to them at the youngest of ages and each year we learned a little more.  We learned about myths and facts, cherry trees, honesty, humble beginnings and great deeds.  We learned about the frozen Potomac and The Gettysburg Address.  We learned about character and conviction.    Do kids in school today still learn about these amazing presidents?

So, what happened to our celebrations?

Did you know that Washington's Birthday was February 22 and was celebrated across the country long before it became an actual holiday?  He was beloved and these celebrations sprang up all over the place.  The date was officially declared a holiday by Congress in 1880.  Five years later, Congress began giving all federal workers the day off.

It wasn't until 1968, though, that the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed and we began the tradition of celebrating with three day weekends.  Washington's Birthday began to be celebrated the third Monday of February (which means it is not possible for us to ever celebrate Washington's birth on his actual birthday).

Both Washington and Lincoln were beloved presidents, but did you know Lincoln never actually had an official holiday commemorating his birthday (February 12).    After his assassination, the anniversary of his birth began to be celebrated across the country.  (Who knew?  I always got the day off from school...)

Anyway, once that whole "third Monday in February" thing got started, Lincoln's birthday fell out of favor...there was even an unsuccessful attempt in Congress to rename the federal holiday currently known as Washington's Birthday to "Presidents Day". 

Yes, you read that correctly, this day is still Washington's Birthday.  It is not Presidents Day. Presidents Day is just an invention of advertisers.  Somewhere, along the way, we've stopped celebrating Lincoln's birthday.   So, there you have it.  A brief civics lesson for you on Washington's birthday, Lincoln's birthday, and the myth of Presidents Day!

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