February 22, 2009

When Is George Washington's Birthday?

From the Old Farmers Almanac comes this story about the date of George Washington's Birthday:

President George Washington celebrated his birthday on February 22, even though he was actually born on February 11, 1731. (To add to the confusion, the federal observance of Washington’s birthday has been moved to the third Monday in February.)

Why the difference? During Washington’s lifetime, people in Great Britain and America switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. As a result of this calendar reform, people born before 1752 were told to add 11 days to their birth dates. Those born between January 1 and March 25, as Washington was, also had to add one year to be in sync with the new calendar.

If you think that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and then admitted his wrongdoing by saying to his father, “I can not tell a lie,” think again. He didn’t say it; he didn’t even chop down the tree! Parson Mason Weems (1759–1825), one of Washington’s biographers, made up the story, hoping to demonstrate Washington’s honesty.

This tale is not the only myth about Washington. His wooden dentures? They weren’t made of wood. Instead, they were made of hippopotamus teeth that had been filed down to fit Washington’s mouth.

For more information on George Washington visit this White House site.