When I was in grammar school (we called it that because we learned grammar in every year of school back then), we never had to go to school on February 22. We all knew it was George Washington’s birthday. We all celebrated it. He was the first elected president of an amazing democratic experiment; it was worth celebrating.
And we never went to school on February 16, because it was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Everyone knew this.
Then, someone had the bright idea to no longer celebrate their birthdays. Instead we’d celebrate on some nebulous, vague date that would give people a long, work-free weekend in a dreary month. Unlike in Sacramento, where February is beautiful, blossoming springtime, it’s the most awful, wintry month in temperate climates like the northeast. So I guess that change sounded like a good idea at the time.
The results, of course, have been predictable: No one knows the birth dates of our most famous presidents anymore.
Today I saw a clip online about how confused people are across the country — some states call it President’s Day (celebrating only one unnamed president), some Presidents’ Day (more than one), some celebrate it in February, some in December, some not at all, etc etc…. No one knows anymore why it’s a holiday, or when. All because a long weekend sounded like a good idea.
I believe in honoring a person, especially a revered, famous person, on the day they were born. No other day or date has that meaning for the person.
A long weekend is nice, too. But let’s not pretend it’s in honor of someone who was born weeks before, or later. It’s a simple sign of selfishness. We don’t want to have to get up for work on Monday. Let’s acknowledge that for what it is.
If I ever become president, and the country decides to honor me, I hope they do it on my birthday. And don’t forget to mention my name.