Once upon a time, on one day of the year, we would celebrate George Washington. Later on, this day of celebration became one for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Now, it is a day on which we celebrate George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan and…but you get the idea. And you’ve heard that noxious phrase, “President’s Day.” Personally, I am fascinated by the presidents and have no great problem with a day on which we celebrate them. Only, it should not be on that day. It should not be at Washington’s expense. At any rate, the day is celebrated in the same way other vague holidays are celebrated. People sleep in and miss either school or work. Industrious people use the day to clean while less industrious people use the day to binge-watch “Walking Dead.”
Celebrating Washington’s Birthday began spontaneously when American citizens showed their admiration for the first president by attending balls and dinners in his honor. When the tradition continued during the Adams Administration, the second President was annoyed that people continued celebrating Washington – a private citizen – when he, Adams, was President! What Adams failed to understand was that people were not celebrating Washington because he was President. They were celebrating him because he was first in war, first in peace, first in the heart’s of his countrymen…you know, that guy.
“President’s Day” seeks to turn Washington into something he was not – one of the gang – while at the same time misrepresenting and misunderstanding the point of the original celebrations. Washington was being celebrated not because he was Prez, but for his myriad of services, including leading the army through the Revolutionary War and being a key player in bringing about the Federal Constitution.
A nation that fails to appropriately take note of its leading lights is a nation in peril. So, first of all, I encourage people to call the holiday what it is – Washington’s Birthday. Secondly, I encourage people to incorporate Washington and the Founders into the day, in some way or other.
At Bow Tie Tours, we are offering a full Washington Extravaganza, from 10:00 am until 5:00, taking you along the steps Washington himself walked, both in the city of Philadelphia and along the grounds of nearby Valley Forge. (You can also take just the city of Philadelphia walking tour from 10 to 12, or the Valley Forge one, from 2 until 5.) If you want to give your family a Washington’s Birthday they will not forget, give us a call or order tickets on our website. For those of you not in the friendly environs of the City of Brotherly Love, find a way to discuss Washington with your kids, or keep him in mind yourself by reading about him or checking out a documentary.
If you are working all day and do not have the time for any of this, then at least raise a glass of wine on the night of the 20th – and the 22nd, let’s bet fair here – and say, “To George Washington.” It’s a start.