Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

It seems weird to wish George Washington a Happy Birthday when it's not his birthday. Yes, we're a week late, but we have our reasons. First of all, Washington wasn't up last week. Secondly, we've decided to take it upon ourselves to over-correct for the fact that Washington's Birthday -- the federal holiday -- always falls before George Washington's birthday -- the day. And, although today is notable as being Leap Day, we've already spent time discussing how circumstances of our calendar screwed John Adams out of one day in office.

First, let's get one thing straight. The day we know as Presidents Day is officially known as Washington's Birthday and it actually has nothing to do with Lincoln's Birthday, which is Feb. 12. Lincoln's Birthday is marked in some states, but was never a federal holiday. If you've ever seen the 1942 film Holiday Inn, you know that it's okay to spend Lincoln's Birthday in blackface.
Ladies and gentlemen, Bing Crosby.
By an 1885 Act of Congress, all federal offices in the nation would be closed to mark Washington's Birthday. It was celebrated on Feb. 22, his actual birthday, until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, which declared that certain holidays (ex: Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Washington's Birthday) would be observed on a Monday to give people three-day weekends.

However, for reasons that the Internet cannot explain, Congress dubbed Washington's Birthday to be the third Monday in February. That meant that it would always fall somewhere between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, thereby ensuring that we would never celebrate Washington's Birthday on Washington's actual birthday.

But really, we shouldn't get bent out of shape that we celebrate Washington's birthday a week early. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25. No one knows when he was born. There seem to be varying accounts about his birthday and while they can't agree on what day he was born, the one thing they all can agree on is the fact that it not late December.

By the way, we can pinpoint the exact date Julius Caesar was assassinated (March 15, 44 BCE) and the Great Fire of Rome (July 19, 64 CE), but no one present for Christ's birth said, "Hey, if what everyone is saying is true and this baby was born of a virgin and is the son of God, one of us should probably jot this date down somewhere in case it becomes important"? In fact, we're not even able to ballpark it down to a range of a few years.

We digress.

Point being, though we don't celebrate Washington's birthday when we should, Washington should be thankful we're only off by a week and not by several months... except for in the State of New Mexico.
This week, George Washington is in the Arena with Jack Ryan, who is also celebrating A Very Merry Unbirthday* today. Both Unbirthday Boys need your votes and your comments.

* We actually don't know Jack Ryan's birthday, but we do know that he was born in 1950. Since that wasn't a leap year, we know this his birthday is NOT Feb. 29. BOOM! Calendar logic.

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