I hope you enjoyed a fabulous Valentines Day and that you celebrated that lovely holiday in a way that was best suited for you and your family. Even though our family got together in Utah this year, I was still able to make and give away our special Valentine sugar cookies and of course, everyone was thrilled. On Sunday, we held our annual Red and White Dinner, including some of our extended family members in the fun. While family dynamics and locations have changed, our traditions continue forward. It is so important to value and observe those meaningful events that our families depend and rely on for continuity and identity.
Our next family February tradition focuses on the patriotic side of February. I teach in high school periodically and I am amazed at how today’s teenagers don’t really know much about the two very important patriotic celebrations in the month of February. (All they really remember is that they get two days off). And if they do know there are two holidays, they can’t differentiate between the two. How sad is that?
First, of course, is Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday which is on February 12th. This holiday rarely falls on his actual birthday; maybe that is why it gets confusing to the high schoolers out there. Like many of you, I admire the many qualities and traits of the 16th President of the United States. So selfless, so humble, so human. He is truly a man worthy of respect and honor. That is why I have always felt that it is important to spend some time reflecting on who Abraham Lincoln was and what he represented during his birthday month. In the past, our family has shared and discussed some of his quotes as well as read some of the fine books that have been written about him. The local library has several juvenile readers that adequately introduce children to this great man, perfect for one on one time with grandchildren. Recently, I have acquainted myself with a couple of books that further investigate the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend the following two selections. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how Lincoln brought together the most capable men of the day for his cabinet even though they were at first, his greatest rivals. Another favorite of mine on dealing with all things Abraham Lincoln is the book Manhunt-The 12 day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. This book gives the account of what happened after Lincoln was assassinated by James Wilkes Booth and details the huge sense of loss and bewilderment that fell on the entire nation when Lincoln was killed. The more I read and research, the more in awe I am of this great man.
Next is President’s Day, the official national holiday celebrating all United States Presidents and which is annually observed on the third Monday in February. When I was growing up, the holiday was originally called “Washington’s Birthday” in honor of the first president and it always fell on George’s birthday, February 22. I guess to get enough votes to make it a national holiday, the legislature had to throw all former presidents in for good measure. I still prefer to recognize it as just “Washington’s Birthday” and pay respect to another great statesman of integrity and devotion to the good of the entire country. Any mention of George Washington has to include the famous story of his honesty in cutting down a cherry tree. Many historians refute this tale as pure legend but of all I have read and studied about George Washington, it certainly would not be out of character for him to confess his mistakes and make positive improvements in his daily life. In a previous post, I have mentioned my love of food in general and baked items in particular. I have even found a way to include a special treat for this holiday: a homemade cherry pie. I thought that would be a fitting dessert to go along with a retelling of the famous story. It wasn’t until I had made this pie for several years that my family suddenly rebelled and told me that no one but me actually liked cherry pie. Ho hum. I couldn’t bear to have this tradition go by the wayside, however, no matter the complaints. So, these days, I just make one or two cherry turnovers for my exclusive enjoyment. Yum. Yum. Hooray for George Washington.
Today, with the tumultuous and divisive political arena we find in our nation, it is well for all of its’ citizens to take the time, especially in February, to study, reflect, and pay respect to those great leaders of the past as we search for the new leadership of our future.