By DANA DITTMAR
I’m really looking forward to this Monday. Sure, it’s a federal holiday so I get to sleep in. And I plan to relax and chill out like most of the rest of you. But this is one of my favorite holidays honoring my favorite American president, George Washington. Yes, I know. It’s now called Presidents’ Day and also honors Abraham Lincoln, because he, too, has a February birthday. But I remember as a kid in school, we all dressed up in colonial clothes and made a big deal out of ol’ George. We would reenact Washington crossing the Delaware River, and learned how he chopped down a cherry tree and couldn’t tell a lie.
Like all other holidays, this one has been commercialized to the point no one even really remembers why we’re celebrating. Many businesses are open as usual, and many stores hold sales. Many delivery services, except for the post office, have regular service, and many, but not all, public transit systems operate on regular schedules. Some schools close for the whole week for a mid-winter recess.
But I’d like to remind you why we have this day off.
George Washington by trade was a farmer and land surveyor. And yet, against all odds, he beat the British Empire in 1783, with a ragtag, sometimes shoeless continental army that was untrained and outmanned. He then went on to serve as the first President of the United States of America. And he was reelected.
Washington is often seen as the father of the United States and is probably the best-known American politician ever. He’s so popular, his face is everywhere. There’s the portrait of him and three other American presidents carved into Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. His image is also used on the one-dollar bill and the quarter. The capital of the United States, Washington D.C., Washington State and at least three universities are named after him.
Washington’s Birthday was first celebrated as a holiday in the District of Columbia in 1880. It was made a federal holiday in 1885. The holiday was originally held on the anniversary of George Washington’s birth, on Feb. 22. In 1971, this holiday was moved to the third Monday in February.
This holiday is legally designated as “Washington’s Birthday.” Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it’s the federal government’s policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.
So enjoy all the sales at all the stores. Have a cookout with burgers and ribs. Maybe spend the day at the beach with the family. And call it Presidents’ Day if you must. But take a moment to remember your American history and give a toast to the man who helped create us, liberated us, led us, and made us the greatest country on the planet.