What Happened To Celebrating George Washington’s Birthday?

The United States Used To Celebrate George Washington’s Birthday

Now It Is Ignored

How We Stopped Honoring One Of The Greatest Americans

The Life of George Washington Harper’s Weekly February 27, 1864

Growing up in the seventies, we didn’t get a “winter break” at school in mid-February for a full week. School in February was closed on two days: February 12 for celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday and February 22 for George Washington’s Birthday. That is if one of the days didn’t fall on a weekend!

Grammar school teachers made a big deal out of our two great presidents. We learned all about Washington and Lincoln leading up to the holidays. Washington secured our liberty and Lincoln preserved it. The two were somewhat distant historical figures, yet their importance was still to be held in some amount of reverence.

From the time he came to prominence during the Revolution, George Washington, The Father of our Country was practically worshiped by its citizens. This was true for nearly two hundred years, Washington was thought of and remembered as a great American. He was honored with place namings and later his own holiday.

That is until the late twentieth century when George Washington’s Birthday became the victim of bureaucrats.

How Washington’s Birthday Became A Holiday

George Washington’s Final Birthday 1799 Harper’s Weekly Feb. 25, 1899

George Washington’s Birthday was the first federal holiday to single out an individual’s birth date.

Washington’s Birthday as a holiday was proposed in the late 1870s by Republican Senator Steven Dorsey of Arkansas. It was a unique idea to honor a person, not an event. Adding Washington’s birthday to the four previously approved existing federal bank holidays; New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day would build upon his importance to the  American people.

President Rutherford B. Hayes, signed the proposal into law January 31, 1879. In 1880 the law was first put into effect applying only to DC federal workers. In 1885 the holiday expanded nationally to all federal workers.

Let’s Have A  3-Day Holiday Weekend

90 years later the practicality of disrupting a week with a holiday became an issue. In 1968 to give federal workers three day weekends, the Uniform Monday Holiday Law was proposed. This way holidays like Columbus Day and Washington’s birthday would not be occurring on different days from year to year. Several federal holidays would be shifted to Monday’s.

To pass the law these dubious reasons were given in the Congressional Record:

“Three-day holidays offer greater opportunities for families—especially those whose members may be widely separated—to get together. The three-day span of leisure time . . . would allow our citizens greater participation in their hobbies as well as in educational and cultural activities. Monday holidays would improve commercial and industrial production by minimizing midweek holiday interruptions of production schedules and reducing employee absenteeism before and after midweek holidays.”

There was no study or research conducted to back up these contrived claims.

The law was passed over the objections of the public and many in Congress who complained that the meaning of Washington’s birthday would be lost in celebrating the holiday on the third Monday of February, rather than his actual birthday.

One big problem – the third Monday of February would never fall on Washington’s actual birthday ever again.

Representative Dan Kuykendall of Tennessee recognized the danger to our national memory by the law passing. Kuykendall said,  “If we do this, 10 years from now our schoolchildren will not know or care when George Washington was born. They will know that in the middle of February they will have a 3-day weekend for some reason. This will come.”

The Uniform Monday Holiday Law was enacted in 1971. States and their schools did not have to follow the federal holiday schedule but many eventually did.

With the combining of Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthday celebrations in many states, Washington’s Birthday was unofficially renamed President’s Day to honor “all presidents.”  Officially in U.S. law, it is still designated Washington’s Birthday but rarely referred to as such by the public.

President’s Day is now a hollow honor to conduct a big three day sale at retail outlets. President’s Day effectively celebrates not just Washington and Lincoln but Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding and Bill Clinton.

And as we are now being shown in our P.C. society everyone is equal (regardless of skill, intelligence and ability). We all know that anyone who holds or has held the highest office in the land to be of equal stature and importance.

If Washington is not among the greatest Americans who ever lived and worth celebrating then who is?

We have certainly lost our way.

Washington was a product of his times and not perfect. No one is. Certainly all of the founding father’s had faults. But without Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton and countless others, the United States would not exist. The trend to view history through a 21st century lens with modern attitudes is twisted. Celebrating Washington is now more or less verboten.

So instead of honoring him, prepare for the future demonizing, renaming and eradicating of George Washington as a patriotic and great American.

Alea iacta est

This libel and slander will be done by political grandstanders, bogus scholars and revisionists. Washington’s greatness will be dismantled by pseudo-activists and rabble-rousers who are unqualified to express an opinion, yet through the internet and other media have their opinions spread far and wide as unchallengeable “truth.” It will be accomplished through our primary, secondary and post-secondary school systems who emphasize colonial inequity and ignore true contributions, heroism and sacrifice. It will come from those who have not actually studied or read George Washington’s words first-hand. It will seep from ignoramuses who have sparse knowledge and a limited intellect to understand George Washington’s impact or his life and times. Washington’s flaws will be magnified, his accomplishments wiped out.

Washington’s Words To The Senate

George Washington was very aware of his intellectual capabilities and limitations. He knew he was not the foremost mind among his contemporaries. He was frequently modest and self-deprecating.

Here are George Washington’s own words in a beautifully written letter to the Senate in 1796 upon his upcoming retirement. Is there any public official today capable of truly feeling these sentiments? I doubt it.

For the notice you take of my public services, civil and military, and your kind wishes for my personal happiness, I beg you to accept my cordial thanks. Those services, and greater, had I possessed ability to render them, were due to the unanimous calls of my country, and its approbation is my abundant reward.

When contemplating the period of my retirement, I saw virtuous and enlightened men, among whom I relied on the discernment and patriotism of my fellow- citizens to make the proper choice of a successor; men who would require no influential example to insure to the United States “an able, upright, and energetic administration.” To such men I shall cheerfully yield the palm of genius and talents to serve our common country ; but, at the same time, I hope I may be indulged in expressing the consoling reflection (which consciousness suggests), and to bear it with me to my grave, that none can serve it with purer intentions than I have done, or with a more disinterested zeal.

George Washington is worth celebrating. Now just tell your fellow American.

2 thoughts on “What Happened To Celebrating George Washington’s Birthday?

  1. Brian

    When I was in elementary school in the 70s our class had a little play about Washington and Lincoln for Washington’s Birthday, and the parents were invited. The only thing I remember about the play was that the kid playing Lincoln was a natural comedian, and ad libbed through the whole thing. The teacher was furious, but he had everyone—kids and grownups—in stitches. How that kid didn’t become a famous comic I’ll never know.

  2. Jon

    Great piece! Seems like your Alea iacta est section could, and does, apply to just about every famous person that’s ever lived at this point. And it’s only going to keep getting worse.


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