Back in the ‘Sixties, when I was a lad, we celebrated three holidays in February, the shortest month: Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, George Washington’s Birthday on February 22, and St. Valentine’s Day on February 14.
(Yes, we actually called it “Saint” Valentine’s Day back then, even in the public schools. Of course, back then we also stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school, followed by the Lord’s Prayer until that was ruled unconstitutional.)
Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, Washington was the Father of Our Country and – although nobody seemed quite sure just who Saint Valentine was (even the experts aren’t quite sure) – it was a good excuse to send a Valentine card to that cute boy or girl in your class that you really had your eye on with very little chance of being “outed” because everybody had to give a Valentine to everybody in the class so nobody would feel left out.
Not having children, I have no idea if kids still exchange Valentine’s Day cards in school (although I’m pretty sure they don’t call it “Saint” Valentine’s Day any more), and here in the Land of Lincoln they still close the public schools and shut down City Hall on Lincoln’s Birthday, or – if it falls on a weekend – the nearest Monday after or Friday before.
But whatever happened to Washington’s Birthday? Hasn’t it become supplanted by the more generic “Presidents’ Day” (or, as some sources and uses have it, President’s Day”)? As it turns out, actually, no.
Under Public Law 90-363, enacted January 15, 1968, the official government holiday – although moved from Washington’s actual birthday to the third Monday in February – is and remains “Washington’s Birthday.” You can look it up.