Remember when there were two days commemorating the presidents?
When I was growing up, I remember school being closed for Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday. I also remember that we did things like make stovepipe hats out of construction paper, and cotton wigs to look like George Washington. There were also the obligatory beard cutouts for the ones that wanted to look like Abraham Lincoln as well.
When I was very young, we were taught the cliches about the presidents, as most 1st and 2nd graders are not apt to understand the details behind what really happened at Gettysburg or Valley Forge. We did not care about Washington’s relationship with people like Lafayette and how that friendship is part of what saved the early United States. We were more interested in the tales of Washington and the cherry tree and the stories about his wooden teeth.
But even with that early, and what may seem like silly, education, I worry that with the combining of the two birthdays, that there are some that are losing the understanding of why we celebrated those days in the first place.
A few years ago I was talking to someone I know and I met their daughter, a ten year old. I asked her what they were doing for their president’s day holiday and she told me that they were going to buy a car, because that is what president’s day is for. I asked her where she heard that from, and she told me, “The TV”.
This is sad in two major ways. First because it tells me that if the school she is going to IS teaching about the meaning of the holiday, even if they are using it to celebrate all the presidents and not just the two that it was originally combined from, then they are not doing a good enough job at it. Secondly, that their parents are not doing a very good job at teaching the child either. Believe it or not, parents, education does not stop the moment the kids leaves school.
There is another thing that I thought of while writing this and that is that most holidays are suffering from the commercialism and sales aspect that has been assigned to them. All the holidays seem to be getting lost in the commercialism morass these days. I start to wonder if there will ever come a day when people will start to forget that July 4th is just about a day to go get a good deal on a big-screen television. Or that Christmas is not one of the most important Christian holidays because you get really good deals on year end automobiles.
For me, and the way I am going to raise my son, President’s Day will be a day we sit and spend a little time talking about the past leaders of this country. And yes, unfortunately, even Bush, Clinton and Obama.