“Presidents’ Day”? The Truth Behind The Holiday: George Washington Master Mason

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“Presidents’ Day”? The Truth Behind The Holiday: George Washington Master Mason

In 1879, the United States made Washington’s February 22nd Birthday a federal holiday. Today, the third Monday in February is frequently referred to as “Presidents’ Day.” So which is it? We get to the bottom of what’s official and what’s not.

A Federal Birthday Celebration

S. 623, A bill to make the 22nd day of February George Washington’s Birthday, 1878. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

During his lifetime, Washington paid little attention to his own birthday, and often “celebrated” it by responding to letters or attending to matters at Mount Vernon.

However, national celebration of his birthday began while he was alive and continued after his death. While his birthday is still recognized to this day, the parameters around it changed in the late 20th century, when it unofficially became known as “Presidents’ Day”.

The road to what the majority of the public in the United States now recognizes as Presidents’ Day is a long and confusing one. After Washington died in 1799, his birthday was informally celebrated across the country. It wasn’t until January 31, 1879, that Washington’s birthday became a federally recognized holiday.

Washington’s birthday is also recognized in another unique fashion. Starting in 1896, it has become a tradition to read Washington’s Farewell Address on February 22 (the actual day of his birth) in the US Senate by a current member. This tradition reminds us of a man whose patriotic spirit still inspires us to this day, particularly federal workers who uphold what he helped create. 

Moving to a Monday

Until 1968, Washington’s Birthday had always been celebrated on February 22. It was tradition and a powerful reminder of the man who helped create what we have today in the United States.

On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act”. This law was to provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays. The act was also created to provide federal employees with more three-day weekends. Under this new law, Washington’s birthday would be celebrated on the third Monday of February, partially losing the value and identity of the importance of his birthday. Washington’s birthday has not been celebrated on the actual day of his birth since the law took effect in 1971.

The “Presidents’ Day” Misnomer

Today the nation typically combines Washington’s Birthday with Presidents’ Day, celebrating both days on the third Monday in February. However, Presidents’ Day is not the official name of the holiday.

While the name “Presidents’ Day” was proposed for this Monday holiday in 1951, the U.S. government never officially changed the name. In the 1980s, thanks to advertising campaigns for holiday sales, the term became popularized and largely accepted.

The idea behind the name was to create a holiday that did not recognize a specific president, but rather celebrated the office of the presidency. This joint recognition would also celebrate President Lincoln’s February 12 birthday within the same period, but arguably, George Washington (the Father of our country) deserves his own day. 

George Washington Day

While it may seem like the entire nation observes “Presidents’ Day,” Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and New York specifically recognize the third Monday in February as “Washington’s Birthday” or “George Washington Day.” Some states, such as Virginia, celebrate Washington’s birthday the entire month of February. In the city of Laredo, Texas, an annual Washington Birthday Celebration that began in 1898 lasts the entire month!

George Washington becomes a Master Mason

George Washington, a young Virginia planter, becomes a Master Mason, the highest basic rank in the secret fraternity of Freemasonry. The ceremony was held at the Masonic Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was 21 years old and would soon command his first military operation as a major in the Virginia colonial militia.

Freemasonry evolved from the practices and rituals of the stonemasons’ guilds in the Middle Ages. With the decline of European cathedral building, “lodges” decided to admit non-stonemasons to maintain membership, and the secret fraternal order grew in popularity in Europe. In 1717, the first Grand Lodge, an association of lodges, was founded in England, and Freemasonry was soon disseminated throughout the British Empire. The first American Mason lodge was established in Philadelphia in 1730, and future revolutionary leader Benjamin Franklin was a founding member.

There is no central Masonic authority, and Freemasons are governed locally by the order’s many customs and rites. Members trace the origins of Masonry back to the erecting of King Solomon’s Temple in biblical times and are expected to believe in the “Supreme Being,” follow specific religious rites, and maintain a vow of secrecy concerning the order’s ceremonies. The Masons of the 18th century adhered to liberal democratic principles that included religious toleration, loyalty to local government, and the importance of charity.

For George Washington, joining the Masons was a rite of passage and an expression of his civic responsibility. After becoming a Master Mason, Washington had the option of passing through a series of additional rites that would take him to higher “degrees.” In 1788, shortly before becoming the first president of the United States, Washington was elected the first Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22.

Many other leaders of the American Revolution, including Paul Revere, John Hancock, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Boston Tea Party saboteurs, were also Freemasons, and Masonic rites were witnessed at such events as Washington’s presidential inauguration and the laying of the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.–a city supposedly designed with Masonic symbols in mind. Masonic symbols, approved by Washington in the design of the Great Seal of the United States, can be seen on the one-dollar bill. The All-Seeing Eye above an unfinished pyramid is unmistakably Masonic, and the scroll beneath, which proclaims the advent of a “New Secular Order” in Latin, is one of Freemasonry’s long-standing goals. The Great Seal appeared on the dollar bill during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, also a Mason.

Freemasonry has continued to be important in U.S. politics, and at least 15 presidents, five Supreme Court chief justices, and numerous members of Congress have been Masons. Presidents known to be Masons include Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford. Today there are an estimated two million Masons in the United States.

“Presidents’ Day”? The Truth Behind The Holiday

George Washington Master Mason

Sources:

https://www.history.com/…/washington-becomes-master-mason

https://www.mountvernon.org/…/the-truth-about…/ 

About the author

Gera'el Toma

A highly esteemed elder in the faith of the Natsarim, the first century believers in Messiah Yahusha, and a treasured member of the Remnant House Team.

Gera'el Toma (Gerald Thomas) is an internationally recognized and respected teacher of the Holy Scriptures as originally written in the Hebrew language.

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Gera'el Toma

A highly esteemed elder in the faith of the Natsarim, the first century believers in Messiah Yahusha, and a treasured member of the Remnant House Team.

Gera'el Toma (Gerald Thomas) is an internationally recognized and respected teacher of the Holy Scriptures as originally written in the Hebrew language.

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