Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Happy Birthday, George

Here, once again, is my somewhat annual rant about President's Day.  I didn't realize it was President's Day until Little Cuter told me she was staying home to celebrate with FlapJilly, whose school was closed.  Here in Arizona, we have Rodeo Weekend this Thursday and Friday so schools remained open.  It may have been a Legal Holiday, but my trash was picked up right on schedule.

I'm not the only sentient being who is struck by the strangeness of it all.  NPR told me that February 22nd had been a Federal Holiday from 1879 all the way through until 1968 when Congress standardized almost  all the Federal Holidays and George ended up with the 3rd Monday in February.... which will always be before his actual date of birth... and, as long as I'm ranting, will always be after Abe's on the 12th.

I'm all for celebrating your Birthday Month, but that's just plain ridiculous.  

Here's the rest of the rant, reprinted and slightly edited.


Mary Ball Washington gave birth to a boy child on February 22, 1732. Unlike many of the stories surrounding this man (think cherry trees and coins across the Potomac and standing up in an open boat as it crossed the Delaware) this is an indisputable fact.

Mary was not in labor on the third Monday of February.  She produced her child on a specific day - the 22nd day of February.  His birthdate didn't move around according to the federal holiday calendar.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln met her second son, Abraham, on the 12th of this month.  Like Mrs. Washington before her, she was not in labor on an indeterminate day sometime in the middle of the month.  It occurred on a certain day, a day formerly commemorated by school children and mail carriers alike.

Alas and alack, these fine gentlemen have been conflated into Presidents and their birthdays combined into a generic celebration designed primarily to afford employees the opportunity for a 3-day weekend in the middle of the winter. What was wrong with the old system, I wonder?  As an elementary school kid I looked forward to those random days off in the middle of the month.  One day, breaking up the routine.  One celebration for each president - pennies examined on the 12th, leadership and lying (not) on the 22nd.

There was no time for a weekend away (not that G'ma and Daddooooo could have afforded to take us anyplace anyhow) and there was no competition between students for who went the furthest and had the most fun.  It was an opportunity to go sledding at Bethpage (the Black Course was used for many things in my youth; this was the best of them) or to meet friends at the bowling alley and then walk to Smiles (our precursor to a 5-and-dime) where we cruised the aisles until our parents picked us up.

It was grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon on the side, eaten on paper plates and accompanied by the admonition Don't Tell Daddy since the bacon was not exactly kosher and he cared a lot more than did G'ma.  There were snow forts to be built, snowball fights to be fought, snow men to be built. The entire neighborhood roamed from front yard to front yard, creating and tumbling and finding warmth and drinks and the occasional bathroom in whichever house we happened to be in front of when the need arose.

And now?  Now President's Day is always an event.  It's a long weekend for which plans must be made.  It has no intrinsic meaning, no relationship to George or Abe or any of their colleagues.  Their faces are used to advertise white sales and car sales and furniture sales and The History Channel runs back to back episodes of The Presidents but that's about the size of the historical component.  What began as tributes to great men has devolved into spending opportunities for the masses.

Am I bitter?  You bet.  A day off followed by another one 10 days later.... what better way to combat the winter doldrums than that?  A random day, a day to cuddle under the blankets with your sweetie or to do all that laundry that interfered with your weekend plans and so still sits in the basket, mocking you.  A day to explore the neighborhood and have lunch in that place you've driven by 100 times before..... a day just to be.

Sometimes, when I was a girl really was better.


  1. No intrinsic meaning? Surely you are forgetting about the new car sales? The opportunity to buy a new mattress at a discount price while we celebrate ALL the Presidents -- even the ones not worth celebrating? How about if we just change the names of most holidays to Consumerism Days.

    1. I did like the White Sales of yore. Happy Consumerism Day to you, too!

  2. Your nostalgic trip down memory land is nothing like my memories of these days. I don't think we had either off from school and living out in the country there were no neighborhood games or trips to stores. It was just a day, and if we were home, we were trying to stay worm around the wood stove. It was just a day, and it is now too. Hoverer I do remember my mother baking a delicious Lincoln Log dessert roll for Abe and cherry pie for George.

  3. I have always referred to these as "the fake Monday holidays," devised to give government workers a three-day weekend.


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