Today many schools are closed and some government offices are closed in order to recognize one of several holidays. In the United States it is President's Day, and in Canada it is some form of Family Day. Although we're choosing to have a regular school day today, we're still taking a brief look at the history and heritage of our two countries.
In the United States, we usually refer to today's federal holiday as President's Day, and it's an occasion to honor all the past presidents, although the official name remains Washington's Birthday. In 1879, an Act of Congress designated the first federal holiday for government employees in honor of a President's birthday. In 1971, the holiday was adjusted so that it would celebrated on the third Monday of February. This was done to give people a predictable three-day weekend, but ironically, also means that the holiday meant to honor George Washington never actually falls on his birthdate, which is the 22nd!
This is a state holiday in most states, but with several different official names: Washington's Birthday, President's Day, Presidents' Day, and Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday.
Following his great success leading the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, George Washington agreed to serve as President of the Constitutional Convention in May of 1787. When it came time to choose the President of the newly formed nation, every elector cast one of his two votes for Washington, making him the first President of the United States in 1789. When he took the oath of office, which had been prescribed in the Constitution, he voluntarily added the words "so help me God". Every President since has followed suit. That was the first example of how his administration set the precedents for all to follow, in issues large and small. Another example is the title by which the President is known. Congress spent considerable time deciding how President should be addressed, but since Washington himself declared that he wanted only "Mr. President" that has been the title settled upon. Washington had hoped to retire after one term as President, but agreed to serve a second term and was chosen President in another unanimous vote in 1792. In 1796, Washington decided that two terms was enough and retired to his home in Mount Vernon.
You can read more about our first President, President's Day, and Mount Vernon in the following posts:
In many parts of Canada, today is a provincial statutory holiday. It's recognized as Family Day in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan; as Louis Riel Day in Manitoba; as Nova Scotia Heritage Day in Nova Scotia, and as Islander Day in Prince Edward Island. British Columbia has a Family Day as well, but it falls on the second Monday of February rather than the third; and in the Yukon Territory a Friday in February is designated as Yukon Heritage Day.
Alberta was the first province to have a statutory holiday in February, with Family Day being established in 1990. The holiday was intended to emphasize the importance of family values.
Saskatchewan declared its first Family Day in February 2007.
In Ontario, Premier McGuinty promised in 2007 that if re-elected he would establish a provincial holiday in February. Family Day was first observed in Ontario in February 2008.
British Columbia first had a proposed Family Day in 1994, but the bill failed to pass in the legislature. In 2013, newly elected Premier Christy Clark followed through on a campaign promise to establish Family Day, but it was set for the second Monday in February.
Manitoba has designated their provincial holiday as Louis Riel Day, first celebrated in 2008. The name was suggested by Manitoba students, in honor of the Metis leader considered to be the Father of Manitoba. Louis Riel was a Canadian politician and political leader of the Metis people of the Canadian prairies. (The Metis are a group of peoples descended from First Nations people and European settlers, with a distinct culture) Riel wanted to preserve the rights of this people group and led two resistance movements against the Canadian government in 1869-1870 and in 1885. His historical reputation has been controversial, sometimes viewed as a dangerous rebel and religious fanatic and sometimes as a rebel hero of minority rights. He was tried and convicted of treason, and was executed in 1885. His legacy has been so often debated by historians that he is the most written-about person in Canadian history. Whatever his failings, he was definitely a catalyst figure in making Manitoba a province, and as an advocate for justice for the Metis, he is now viewed as a founder of Canadian minority rights and cultural cooperation. See more at the Louis Riel Day website.
|Louis Riel (1844-1885)|
Prince Edward Island's observance, Islander Day, was introduced in 2009, and is celebrated with many outdoor activities such as skiing, skating, winter carnivals, and snowfests.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day was first celebrated in 2015. Each year it honors a different person or group in the province's history. The honorees were chosen from suggestions by schoolchildren. This year, Nova Scotia Heritage Day focuses on the culture and accomplishments of the M'ikmaq people. You can find out more at the Nova Scotia Heritage Day website.
I admit I feel just the tiniest bit guilty for making this a full school day, when so many have the day off! It's just a very tiny bit of guilt though, and not enough to change my mind, especially since we get to take so many other days off! And besides, we really do need to make use of the days when Kennady and I are both at home.
Are you taking a day off today in honor of history, heritage, or family? No matter what your plans are, I hope you're having a great day! Leave a comment and let me know if you're doing something special today or what you're studying!
Don't miss a coffee break! Subscribe to Homeschool Coffee Break by Email!
©2006-2017 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://kympossibleblog.blogspot.com/