Happy Birthday, George Washington! Presidents Day honors forefathers
What do you think of when you hear the name George Washington? A couple of things may come to mind: cherry trees, crossing the Delaware, wooden teeth and, of course, his role as the first president of the United States of America. We can attribute much of America’s success as a nation to the leadership of Washington and his successors, so we honor presidents past and present on Washington’s Birthday, the third Monday of February.
Also known as Presidents Day, the federal holiday was originally instated in 1879 to honor Washington’s Feb. 22 birthday. Since then, it has expanded in scope to become a day that recognizes the contributions of all 44 presidents — including President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a member of the Texas State University class of 1930.
Find out more about the history behind this holiday below.
1. A Birthday to Remember
George Washington was born on Feb. 22, 1732. He was the first American citizen to have a federal holiday instated to honor his birthday. Martin Luther King Jr. is the only other person to date who has been honored this way.
2. Presidents in February
Four presidents have birthdays in February, including Ronald Reagan on Feb. 6, William Henry Harrison on Feb. 9, Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12 and George Washington on Feb. 22.
3. Cherries for Everyone
Washington is often associated with cherries thanks to a well-circulated story about the young Washington mischievously felling his father’s cherry tree and later confessing to it because he could not tell a lie. While this story was actually fabricated by Mason Weems in his novel The Life of Washington to demonstrate Washington’s honesty, desserts with cherries are often eaten on President’s Day to honor the first president.
4. Facts About “Old Muttonhead”
- Washington is the only president who did not live in Washington, D.C., and one of the only Founding Fathers to free his slaves. He is also credited with the introduction of the mule to American farms.
- There were 13 stars on the U.S. flag when Washington became president in 1789. He is the only president to have been elected unanimously.
- While many people believe that George Washington’s teeth were made of wood, they were actually made of elephant and walrus tusks.
- Washington’s nickname while he was in office was “Old Muttonhead,” a moniker coined by Thomas Jefferson.
5. Reflection on a Legacy
The U.S. Senate reads Washington’s farewell address — which speaks to political factionalism, geographical sectionalism and interference by foreign powers in national affairs — on Feb. 22 each year.