Sunday, February 15, 2009

Washington's Birthday, 2009

It's Washington's Birthday.

Okay, it's not really, but today's the day we officially observe Washington's Birthday in the U.S.

What's that? You thought it was "Presidents Day?" Why would you think that?

Oh, someone told you that? You read it on a calendar? Some newshead on TV said it?

Guess what? They're wrong. And they probably don't even know it. Living in their own ignorance. Probably Obama voters.

Let's clear up this whole "Presidents Day" thing first.

In 1968, the federal government started screwing around with holidays. They decided that it was more convenient and cost-effective to observe holidays on a Monday. The holidays they had in mind were Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.

When the bill went into effect in 1971, things went all kaflooey.

Some wondered what happened to Lincoln's Birthday. Turns out, it was never a federal holiday, although lots of states celebrated it. Georgia, for instance, had February 12th as a state holiday. Of course, it was the anniversary of the founding of Georgia ("Georgia Day"), so it'd have been a holiday if Lincoln had never been born.

Anyway, there was a newspaper spoof in 1971 that mentioned "Presidents Day," taking advantage of the whole "where'd Lincoln go" thing. But, Executive Order 11582 said nothing about "Presidents Day." The actual wording of United States Code (5 U.S.C. 6103) says "Washington's Birthday."

You can read more at the urban legends Website Snopes.

So there.

Now, let's talk about George Washington.

If you're not celebrating his birthday, you must be a communist. Or British. Or some other kind of foreigner. Or an Obama voter. Or, more likely, two of those.

George Washington was born February 11, 1732. You see, Virginia, a British colony at the time, used the Julian calendar. And, when Augustine and Mary Ball Washington added that little bundle of joy, that's what the calendar said.

When England joined the rest of the civilized world by adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1752, George Washington's birthday became February 11 O.S. and February 22 N.S. That's "old style" and "new style." Eventually, "new style" fell out of usage, though the calendar stayed.

George Washington became a surveyor, joined the Virginia militia, fought in the Seven Years War (AKA the French and Indian War), married a rich widow, fooled around a lot, and became a successful businessman.

As tensions mounted between the colonies and the British Crown, Washington led the American forces in the Revolutionary War, culminating in the British surrender and recognition of the United States of American as a soverign nation. After several unsuccessful governments were established under the Articles of Confederation, a new Constitution was adopted in 1789. The presidential electors unanimously selected Washington as the first President, the only person ever so honored.

Washington served two terms, retired, and lived a quiet life until 1799.

Then, nearly a century and three-quarters after he died, the very government he helped found started screwing around with his birthday again. It's now officially observed on the 3rd Monday in February. Which means it can be as early as the 15th, and as late as the 21st. But never on his real birthday, the 22nd.

It takes a government to really screw something up.

Still, it's the best government we have. Still. If we can keep it.


  1. Ah, You mean the site that debunked all those anti-obama articles. I like that site too!

    Interesting read man.

  2. I like the way you spelled "Obama" with a small "o".


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