Despite reference to Presidents Day on television ads, in newspapers and many state and local governmental offices, the legal name of the national holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February is Washington's Birthday, and it commemorates George Washington, whose birthday was on Feb. 22. Confusion began when Congress enacted the Monday holiday law in 1968. Center your own observation of the day on both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is Feb. 12.
Cuisine in Honor of Washington
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For your main course in observance of the day, choose fish, of which George was "excessively fond," according to his wife Martha and reported in the Food Timeline website. For dessert, choose one of Martha's many favorites, which included spice cake, cakes with sugared almond paste, macaroons and fruit pies of all sorts -- historians have thoroughly discredited the iconic cherry pie story of young George chopping down the tree and telling the truth about it when his father supposedly asked.
Foods That Lincoln Liked
Lincoln's food preference are ambiguous, according to the Food Timeline website, giving you license to observe Presidents Day by eating food that he may have eaten. Follow a Kentucky-frontier menu to reflect Lincoln's early years in a log cabin splitting wood and reading by candlelight, and cook cornbread and venison or eggs and bacon for dinner. Or, make some gingerbread men, which figure into the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates when Lincoln told the story of giving up his favorite treats to a boy who was poorer than he was.
Washington's Inspirational Acts
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George Washington's strength of character and his imposing 6-foot 2-inch stature made him a model both physically and morally. Let his character inspire you to improve your own by listing one or two character flaws to correct. In honor of Washington's work outdoors as a surveyor in the wilds of Virginia, take a walk in a local park or around the block. Or, in honor of Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on Dec. 25, 1776, take a swim or kayak trip in his honor.
Lincoln's Historical Heritage
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In honor of The Great Emancipator, read any of Lincoln's best-remembered speeches to yourself and to your friends and family. Include the short but powerful Gettysburg Address of 1863 and his famous second inaugural address from 1865, which includes the phrase, "With malice toward none; with charity for all" -- a phrase Lincoln used to signal a desire to mend fences with the South as the Civil War neared its end. Continue your readings about slavery and race by visiting your local library and reading more books about race relations in America.
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Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.