When I was growing up, we had two school holidays in February: Lincoln?s Birthday on the12th and Washington?s Birthday on the 22nd.? Now we have Presidents Day on the third Monday in February.? Then again, all telephones had rotary dials and were connected to the wall by a wire.? Times change and so does much of what we are accustomed to.? Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.? While I don?t remember having any special ceremonies to honor Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, I do remember having my teachers speak about the men whose birthdays we observed as those days approached.? The school kids with whom I have recently spoken had not experienced this walk though American history.? In fact, some didn?t even know that Presidents Day is supposed to honor George Washington.? It’s just another day for stores to have sales.? How did it happen that we now ?celebrate? this holiday when we do?
It all started with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968.? This moved Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday from his actual birth date of January 15th to the third Monday in January, George Washington’s Birthday from his actual birthday of February 22nd to the third Monday in February, Memorial Day from the traditional grave-decorating day of May 30th to the last Monday in May, Columbus Day from the day Columbus landed in the New World on October 12th to the second Monday in October and Veterans Day from the date of the end of World War I to the fourth Monday in October.? Due to protests by veterans organizations, Veterans Day was restored to November 11th.? Considering Columbus? current unpopularity in some circles, it may soon become Indigenous People’s Day or Native American Day as it already has in some places.? However, the important point is that all of these holidays are becoming removed from the appropriate days for the people whom they honor.
For proof of this point, consider Presidents Day, supposedly honoring George Washington.? The third Monday falls on a day between February 15th and 21st, yet Washington was born on the 22nd.? Since Lincoln?s Birthday was never a national holiday and he was born on the 12th, obviously it is not to honor him.? It is merely a sanitized, convenient excuse to take a paid holiday.? I fear that there will come a time when other holidays will lose their original meaning.? Will Thanksgiving become Football Day, celebrated on the fourth Monday of November?? Will Christmas become Santa Day on the fourth Monday in December?? Like unruly stallions, will they be gelded so that they are easily tamed to be nothing more than meaningless excuses for an extended weekend?
I propose that we return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when holidays and the daysthey were celebrated on had meaning.? Let?s remember George Washington for what he was: a man who put patriotism above personal security, wealth and ambition.? He was a man of substance and position who risked it all for this nation.? He would have been executed as a traitor and his estate seized if the British had captured him.? He led a ragtag group of citizens who eventually became the Continental Army.? He inspired his compatriots to continue to resist in the face of what must have oft seemed certain defeat.? Reluctantly, he became President.? After two terms of office, he voluntarily stepped down, thereby establishing the two-term tradition that was not broken until Franklin Roosevelt.? Such a republican form of government was unknown in the world at that time and many wanted him to become king, to give stability to the government.? Yet, he refused, trusting in the people to have the wisdom and strength to make this country endure.? The more you read about Washington, the more admirable he is.? So let?s give him back his day on his birthday instead of some safe, generic Presidents Day that can never fall on it.? Then let?s make all our holidays remembrances of what they were originally established to remember.? If they don?t fall on a Monday, live with it.