Today is the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, or is it? George Washington’s birthday is one of the oldest celebrated, yet misapplied, holidays in the United States. Early citizens of this country honored the day long before it became an official holiday.
Some confusion comes from a changing of calendars. Until the late eighteenth century, the Julian calendar was used in the British Empire. The Protestant British hierarchy had a hard time accepting the Gregorian calendar that was updated in 1582 by a Catholic, Pope Gregory XIII.
Changes in the calendar were necessary in that leap years keep the calendar more aligned with the solar year. It took the British Empire almost 200 years to accept the necessary modifications.
Since George Washington was born in the British Colony of Virginia, his birth date was recorded on the Julian calendar as Feb 11. When the colonies stopped using the Julian calendar in 1752, Washington was 20 years old. His birthdate on the Gregorian calendar became Feb 22.
For generations across the United States, George Washington’s Birthday was celebrated every year on Feb 22. Then in 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to create more 3-day weekends. The observance of Washington’s birthday was changed to the third Monday in February. This means Washington’s birthday as a federal holiday rarely is celebrated on his determined birthday.
The fact that schools usually are in session on Washington’s actual birthday is a bonus. Teachers can use the day as part of the history curriculum. They can teach the importance of George Washington as a founding defender of our freedoms.
While doing research to write about George Washington, I made an exciting discovery. In all likelihood, Washington’s path intersected with my own forefathers on more than one occasion.
When he was 16 years old, George Washington was hired by Lord Fairfax to survey the Northern Neck Proprietary, a land grant of thousands of acres in Colonial Virginia. As it happened, on my paternal grandmother’s side, the families of Baker and Martin were farmers on this land grant.
It seems, then, that these Baker and Martin progenitures must have met young George and helped him survey the land they farmed. Considering there were no fast-food joints nor a Motel 6 in that vast outback territory, the future President probably dined and possibly slept in their homes.
Imagine the conversations between these young men about their ambitions. Later, General George Washington became the revolutionary leader in the War for Independence. He was appointed by the Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army. Family history tells an ancestor served under him.
There are many ways to celebrate Washington’s birthday locally. Bake a cake and decorate it in patriotic colors. Gather with family and friends to have a party.
Sing or play patriotic songs. History tells us that President Washington loved to dance. Dance to the music in memory of George Washington.
Buy a little treat for a pet. Dog owners, make this a special day as Washington loved dogs and bred hounds.
Go to a local store and get a new toothbrush. The story that President Washington had wooden dentures is not founded on historic data. Though without modern dentistry he surely had oral problems. His dentures were made of assorted materials including bone and gold. Be grateful for modern dental care.
George Washington’s picture is on the dollar bill. Gather dollar bills and do something special for someone or donate to charity. George Washington spent his life giving his time and health for others to have freedom.
With a fondness for our first President of the United States on his birthday, honor George Washington. Shop locally for celebration needs.