Monday, February 22, 2010

Washington's Birthday

I wonder how many Americans under 40 know that today, February 22, used to be a holiday. No school today. No mail deliveries. Banks and financial markets closed. All to celebrate the birthday of our first president.

Then, 39 years ago, Washington’s Birthday was replaced by President’s Day. Never really replaced though, because someone decided that President’s Day has to fall on the third Monday in February. That means it comes between Feb. 15-21.

As kids (long ago when the world was very young) we knew that Lincoln’s birthday is also in February, on the 12th. It was never a formal holiday, which I thought was inappropriate since I would rather have celebrated Lincoln than Washington. Besides, if we celebrated both of these guys we’d have had another day off from school – obviously a good thing, although I guess some parents didn’t think so.

I’m sure that 40 years ago President’s Day proponents made the argument that bagging Washington’s day wasn’t really a slight since we’d celebrate him close to his birthday and have a chance to celebrate Lincoln too. They’d both win, since President’s Day would never fall on Lincoln’s birthday either.

I wonder if there was any discussion about lumping both presidents together with Valentine’s Day and doing a triple play on Feb. 14? Not likely. Nor did anyone think to include my birthday, the 23rd, in the conversation. (For those of you who have or will wish me a happy birthday, thanks.)

Of course, making sure that President’s Day is always on a Monday is practical. And certainly good for retail businesses. So if there are losers they’re long dead and gone, moldering in their graves, not caring whether we celebrate them or not. Or is that a cruel way to put it? Okay, then let’s say they’re looking down on us from heaven, smiling and happy that we remember them sometime around their birthdays.


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