Today is George Washington’s Birthday. Except that it’s not. George Washington’s actual birthday is February 22nd. Except that it’s not. When George Washington was born, in 1732, the Julian Calendar was being used, so he was actually born on February 11. But in 1752, we switched to the Georgian Calendar, and under that system, his birthday is reckoned as February 22nd. Which is not today.
Today is most commonly known as Presidents’ Day, but that’s not its official designation. Officially, it’s still George Washington’s Birthday. You can read all about how today became Presidents’ Day here. The short version is that George Washington’s Birthday became an official Federal holiday in 1885. Many of us remember also separately celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. But even though that was declared a state holiday in many states, it was never declared a Federal holiday. Sometime during the Nixon administration, the two were unofficially combined into the holiday that supposedly honors both of them… or all presidents, depending on who you believe… called Presidents’ Day.
In any case, it’s one of those holidays which I have started to think of as a holiday of inconvenience. Federal employees are off today, bank employees get the day off, and most schools are off today. The rest of us have a normal work day. And that means for us it just means the bank is closed, and there won’t be any mail delivery. And if you have to work, and you have kids, you have to figure out how what they’ll do today while you’re at work.
And really, it’s not as if those people who don’t work today are sitting at home studying the lives of Washington and Lincoln, and honoring these two great presidents. The day is not spent in quiet contemplation of our country and its history. It’s a 3-day weekend: another day on which to sleep late. The only manifestation of Presidents’ Day most of us see is those annoying and disrespectful commercials in which Washington and Lincoln talk with each other about the incredible sale going on down at Cheatsky’s Dodge Jeep Chrysler. Therefore, it’s a holiday of inconvenience for most of us. I don’t begrudge these folks getting the day off, but really, the day has entirely lost its meaning, and it seems to me, anyway, a useless and purposeless holiday.
Grump, grump, gripe, grumble…
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