If you need to go to your bank tomorrow for any reason or walk down to your mailbox for a piece of mail you are expecting, you may be in for a surprise. Tomorrow is one of the 10 holidays that are observed by the Federal Government. It is the day set aside to “celebrate” George Washington’s Birthday. Washington was born on Feb. 22, but the third Monday of February is when it is observed.
Washington’s Birthday is also one of 12 holidays observed by the State of Georgia. But state agencies will be open tomorrow. For that observation is moved each year a date closer to Christmas. This year the state has set that date for Dec. 26. Of course, this gives a longer holiday break to state employees.
By now, you may be thinking, I thought it was labeled Presidents Day. Some would say because we combined it with Lincoln’s birthday which falls on Feb. 12. But Lincoln’s birthday was never a Federal Holiday. Seven states do have an “official holiday for Lincoln. As close as we get in Georgia is Feb. 12 is designed as “Georgia Day” to be observed in the schools of our state. This is the date that General James Oglethorpe landed with a group of colonists near Savannah to start what was then the colony of Georgia.
You will see or hear a lot of advertisements for President Day sales for everything from cars to furniture to clothing. But none of this changes the official designation which is still in honor of George Washington alone. Not that some of the others don’t deserve it but it is not what it is officially called.
Getting the name wrong or the date moved around is not the only thing confusing about George Washington. There is no real historical evidence that Washington cut his father’s cherry tree down or that he threw a dollar across the Potomac. The cherry tree story, written long after Washington’s death was to emphasize his honesty. And there were no dollars when Washington was supposed to have thrown the coin and the Potomac was too wide. The basis of this story may have been Washington and some of his boyhood friends throwing rocks across the Rappahannock River. But this “creative” writing of history is not limited to Washington alone. Legends have grown in though they years as we remember our Presidents.
So we “take” tomorrow off to honor the one we call “the Father of our Nation.” He is the one that held the emerging nation together and led it through those years that the success of the Revolution was very much in question. He was the one that has become a model of what a President should be.
Our freedom is not automatic. Those who came before us had to risk all they had so that they might build the foundation of who we are as a nation. Washington’s Birthday is a great reminder that we are much like the turtle found on top of the fence post. We know the turtle didn’t get there by himself. So with our freedoms. Let us be good stewards of the gift we have been given.
There is one nice thing about a holiday like the one observed on Monday. There is not decorating to be done, No shopping for gifts of cards. No special meals to be prepared. If you do get the day off, just sit back and relax.
School is out for this coming week in Newton County. It is the second winter break. The other being around the Christmas holidays. These dates could have been used for bad weather days but of course, we haven’t really had any wintery weather this year.
Because of the many folks that are off for the day on Monday, Washington’s Birthday is one of the most popular travel times of the year. It is a good time for a break since it falls about half way between Christmas and Easter.