George Washington’s Birthday: From Popes Creek Plantation to the Federal Holiday

George Washington's Birthday

George Washington’s Birthday: From Popes Creek Plantation to the Federal Holiday

George Washington, the first President of the United States, was born on February 22, 1732, at Popes Creek Plantation, as the oldest child of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. His mother was orphaned as a child and named him after her guardian, George Eskridge, a local lawyer and statesman. Washington spent his first three years of life at Popes Creek and performed his first survey at age 14. The family’s wealth was maintained by growing tobacco and an interest in iron production business (National Park Service, n.d.).

Washington’s birthdate originally fell on February 11th (Old Style). However, it shifted to February 22nd (New Style) due to Great Britain’s transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This transition necessitated dropping 11 days from the middle of September in 1752. As a result, most birthdates moved eleven days ahead. Thus, February 22 is celebrated as his birthday (National Park Service, n.d.).

Washington’s birthday was celebrated on the 11th by some and the 22nd by others. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a single holiday to be called Presidents’ Day to honor all past presidents, celebrated on the third Monday in February. However, the name Presidents’ Day never became the permanent name of the holiday, and the day is still called George Washington’s Birthday on all official Federal Government calendars and documents (National Park Service, n.d.).

The first public celebration of Washington’s Birthday took place at Valley Forge in 1778. The Birthnight Ball tradition originated in Britain, and Americans continued it after the Declaration of Independence. The first recorded Washington Birthnight Ball was held in Williamsburg in 1779. The last Birthnight Ball was held in February 1799, just ten months before Washington’s death (National Park Service, n.d.).

For the 100th anniversary of Washington’s birth in 1832, Daniel Webster declared that, “A hundred years hence, other disciples of Washington will celebrate his birth, with no less of sincere admiration than we now commemorate it.” In 1857, February 22 was designated a state holiday in Massachusetts. In 1880, George Washington’s Birthday was first observed as a Federal holiday. In 1932, the George Washington Bicentennial Commission was established to coordinate almost five million events in 81 countries (National Park Service, n.d.).

Although Washington’s actual birthday is February 22, some people celebrate Presidents’ Day, which falls on the third Monday of February. It is a federal holiday that honors all US presidents, past and present. This holiday was created to commemorate Washington’s birthday, and it is also a time to recognize the achievements and contributions of all US presidents throughout history ( Editors, 2009).

In conclusion, George Washington’s birthday is celebrated on February 22, although some people choose to celebrate it on Presidents’ Day. The first president of the United States continues to be honored for his leadership and his contributions to the country’s founding. His legacy endures to this day, and his influence is still felt in American society.

References: Editors. (2009, November 24). Presidents’ Day. History.

National Park Service. (n.d.). George Washington’s Birthday. U.S. Department of the Interior.


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