There are countless ways to honor Gen. George Washington—during his birthday celebration and throughout the year.
Here are ways to celebrate Washington during February… and throughout the year!
Some suggested activities to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22, 1732
Ask your school principal, teachers, school and local public libraries to present celebratory events like lectures, reenactor presentations, a birthday party, special video showings, etc.
School programs might include GW’s friends/employees re-enactors in 18 century attire Also, Wendi Kaplan, Alexandria’s Poet Laureate, wrote a poem about GW’s life and might be able to participate. (Contact GWBCCfor assistance.)
Create an exhibit for the front lobby and/or library, cafeteria, hall walls. It could include a copy of the mayor’s proclamation to celebrate Washington’s birthday, pictures of Washington and his family and home, a list of Washington’s contributions to our city, state and nation, books, flags, essays, etc.
Draw a portrait of George Washington – perhaps at different ages. Compete for the best likeness. Or draw a political cartoon featuring GW or a comic strip about an important event in his life. Post/exhibit these for all to enjoy.
March in the parade, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. It starts at 1 PM, 1 mile on flat streets in Old Town. Contact Joe Shumard at email@example.com
On Feb. 22, his real birthday, wear red/white/blue or buff/blue/white (the colors of Washington’s uniform). Washington paid careful attention to his appearance, including posture, table manners and conversation. He constantly aimed for excellence.
Make and wear a Colonial style tricorn hat (out of newspaper; see online directions).
Sing the birthday song to Gen. Washington (his preferred mode of address even after being President).
Make birthday cards for Washington, perhaps with a note, post them on a bulletin board with balloons and streamers and perhaps our flag around them. (Could also combine with creating portraits of GW)
Create cards and notes and send to veterans. Washington was always concerned with their welfare.
Create a crossword puzzle with Washington’s life and accomplishments as the theme. Exchange with a pal. Collect the best puzzles as a gift to ….. another class? Your family? A veteran?
Research, write and present a GW minute announcement every day during the week of his birthday. Focus on interesting aspects of his life and accomplishments as well as his contributions to Alexandria, our state, nation and the world.
Have cherries in some fashion on the menu for Feb. 22; what a delicious dessert! Maybe a cake or ice cream with cherries on top… (According to John Augustine Washington, a descendant, in The Education of George Washington, Parson Weems’ account has been misconstrued. The young George “barked” the valuable young cherry tree (cut around its perimeter) but didn’t chop it down. However, the effect of his action would be to kill the tree. His father did ask who had cut the tree and George did own up to the deed although he could expect a severe punishment. Instead, his father picked him up and hugged him, saying how pleased he was that George had told the truth. Honesty was essential because there were no banks and people worked on trust alone. His father was proud that his son had internalized the need for honesty at an early age.
The Rev. Tom Costa, now retired rector of Pohick Church, does a reenactment of the Rev. Mr. Massey, GW’s rector at Pohick, in 18c. attire. (Contact GWBCC for assistance.)
Declare a George Washington Math Day. Create a math puzzle. Exchange with a friend (for fun). Have a GW math quiz with the winner the person who finishes first with all correct answers. Washington doodled math problems in the margin of his books; he loved math! He also kept careful account of his income and expenditures in account books. (Basic accounting and economics)
Write a poem about Washington’s life and accomplishment(s).
Create a skit about some aspect of Washington’s life (He loved plays, especially about historical topics. His favorite was “Cato”, which he had performed for the troops during the Revolution to boost their spirits.)
Read and write a book report about Washington or another topic to “improve your mind”. To get an education beyond the rudiments he’d gotten in Fredericksburg where his formal education lasted only four years while he lived with his widowed mother, Washington read as much as he could on a wide variety of useful subjects. He started in the library of William Fairfax of Belvoir, a great privilege because books were very expensive. Then he was “examined” by his older brother Lawrence and Mr. Fairfax on his understanding and recollection of what he’d read to determine if he merited continuing that privilege. They found he had absorbed and understood the material admirably. Washington was a life-long omnivorous reader/learner and regretted he had so little time for it. He eventually owned an extensive book collection kept in a locked bookcase in his office.
Write a letter to the editor about some aspect of Washington’s life and why we should continue to honor him. (The Alexandria Gazette limits letters to 500 words, must also include the author’s name, mailing address, phone number(s) and email. Only the author’s name will be published; the rest is in case of questions. Being a published author is a great addition to a college application, application to the Governor’s School for the Gifted, etc.
Enjoy a George Washington dance contest. He excelled at dancing; he and his friends competed to see who was acclaimed the best. He usually won and Thomas Jefferson was second. He spent some of the first money he earned on dance lessons because that was an essential skill for a gentleman (and lady).
Play a musical instrument/have a Washington Birthday Celebration concert. Washington played the violin. He bought a harpsichord for his adopted daughter Nellie Custis and ordered the latest music from London for her to play. He liked music after dinner and at other times too. He especially liked contemporary composers, including Mozart, Handel and Bach. In fact, he liked all music, marches, minuet and country dance music, etc. “Yankee Doodle” was a favorite. Originally the British used the lyrics to mock the Americans who then changed the words and adopted the tune as their own. When he and Jefferson competed on the violin, Jefferson usually won, and Washington was second.
Write a letter to President Washington about a political issue of his day, giving your views and requesting …. Research how he managed the matter.
Write a letter commending Washington for …. and telling why you think he was right. Tell him the long range results of his decision (he died in 1799 so may not know).
Write a message in invisible ink. After Nathan Hale was hung, GW realized spies needed training and effective means of concealing messages – not the heel of his shoe like Major Andre, the British spy. Washington used some tricks he’d learned from the British during the French and Indian War and devised some of his own cyphers, etc. Both sides used spies extensively.
Go on a Walk with Washington on a Feb. Sunday led by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer. It starts at Alexandria’s Visitor Center (Ramsay House), corner of King and Fairfax St. at 2 PM. Free Lasts about 2 hours; no advance reservations needed.
Volunteer to be a tour guide for the Walk with Washington excursions on the Sundays in Feb. There is a script and guided practice before one conducts a tour. Best for mature high school students and adults with an interest in history.
APPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES FOR ANY TIME TO HONOR WASHINGTON
Members of the George Washington Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, wearing American Revolutionary Army officer uniforms, offer programs discussing their military attire, accounts of George Washington’s life and contributions to our country, highlights of important battles in our war for independence, etc. These presentations are appropriate for all ages, families, and organizations such as school groups and civic associations. Contact the GWBCC.
Learn something new every day in the spirit of Washington!
Create cards and notes and send to veterans.
Visit hospitalized veterans. Sing patriotic and military songs like the Navy hymn and anthems of the Army, Air Force, etc. Play musical instruments, especially stringed, which are calming (not loud instruments which may disturb people in other rooms) Chat about vets’ school experiences, your school and activities like sports, Scouting, favorite foods, books, etc. Create cards and notes for veterans. Washington was always concerned for the welfare of his soldiers, both during and after their service. In 1783, he founded the Society of the Cincinnati as a way for all his officers (American and French) to whom he had grown very close during the war to continue their association, and he was its first President General. Those officers’ descendants continue the organization. The Society is proud of its porcelain china bearing the Eagle insignia of the Society, one of three marks of membership, along with the gold Eagle badge and parchment certificate. Washington also instituted the Order of the Purple Heart to recognize those who had shed their blood for freedom.
Learn about our US flag (heroes.vfw.org/flag to download one). Find out about the symbolism of the stripes, blue field, stars and their colors. Learn which star belongs to your state. (Assigned according to their order of entry into the union. Delaware’s is first; Virginia’s, 10th. Start counting from the top row, from the staff side to the outer edge. For the stripes, start counting from the bottom. Delaware’s is on the bottom; VA’s is 10th counting upward.) Washington created a flag for himself as commander-in-chief of our armed forces; it flew outside his tent or headquarters (blue with thirteen white stars in rows. He was on the committee that drew up suggestions for our flag during the Revolution. Note its similarity to the Washington coat of arms – colors red and white, stripes.
Do a good deed for the poor, just as Washington did regularly.
Write a letter about some aspect of current public affairs on which you feel strongly and send it to the appropriate official and/or editor of a local paper. (Washington did so regularly, trying to influence others)
Washington was a superb athlete. Being able to swim was unusual in his day, but he was such a strong swimmer that he saved his own life and that of Christopher Gist when their raft was upended in icy waters; he carried his unconscious companion to safety on the shore. (Swim contest/meet or other athletic competition named for Washington?)
Washington was noted for his height (6' 2 1/2") and strength (like his father who was 6'5"). During a winter camp in the Revolution he picked up two soldiers from different colonies who were fighting each other (which happened often enough to be worrisome). He put them down, told them to stop it, and save their energy to use against the British. (Weight lifting contest named for Washington?) He wrestled (as the oldest, he had 3 younger brothers to keep in line), loved foot racing and throwing stones as far as possible. (Lots of contests for athletes eager for a Washington Sports Day)
Washington loved dogs, especially his hounds for fox hunting, so enjoy your pets! He named his favorite hound Sweet Lips. Of course, he was an expert horseman too.
Declare a George Washington Science Day. He loved science.
For physics: Washington put a large balloon on the bowling green (large expanse of lawn) in front of the mansion shortly after Montgolfier did his experiments.
For biology: Plant something! Washington studied how plants, shrubs, trees, flowers and crops grew, trying to improve them. He rotated crops (an innovation) and kept daily records of the weather. He thought of himself primarily as a farmer and was happiest at Mount Vernon riding around his five farms. He also was interested in exotic animals; he kept a camel, Alladin, on the bowling green during the Christmas festivities for the amusement of his guests. He also recognized the value of mules and gave them to the army; they are the ancestors of many mules now used by our army and were widely used in the settlement of our West. He continually bred farm animals to increase their value and usefulness.
Do something healthy! Washington had his soldiers inoculated against smallpox when that procedure was new and people feared the vaccine would give them the disease which was often fatal. His wife, (always called “Patsy”, never “Martha”), set a public example for the men in winter camp when she had the procedure. That saved the men from an epidemic that would have sapped his army’s effectiveness and made them easy pickings for the British. Be sure your shots are up to date.
Build a raised plant bed, greenhouse, tree house, birdhouse or doghouse. Washington was an architect who devised a 16 sided barn which provided an improved method of threshing. He also planned Mount Vernon’s mansion; he expanded it from a one-story three room house to its current impressive state. Unlike Jefferson, he did not pull down and rebuild; once built, the additions stayed. He had an eye for internal comfort and convenience (placement of windows and doors) so the exterior elements are not absolutely symmetrical but are pleasingly harmonious.
Go to church to give thanks for your blessings. Washington was an active churchman, serving on the Pohick Church (Anglican, located in Lorton) vestry for 22 years and also attended Christ Church, Alexandria, mainly after his Presidency. He attended church regularly, not always the Anglican/Episcopal; he attended those of other denominations too. He was present at the organizational meeting of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Alexandria and contributed the equivalent of $1200 (2017 value) to its construction. He surveyed the site for the original church and cemetery on the south end of Alexandria. He insisted on paid chaplains for the troops during the Revolution and required all soldiers, enlisted and officers, to attend service on Sunday. He forbade cursing, saying we could not expect God’s help for our cause if we were disrespectful to Him. He added “So help me, God” to the Presidential oath. His first Presidential proclamation called for a day of thanksgiving for our blessings.
Write a prayer. Pray regularly at a set time (easier if you are on a schedule). Washington wrote prayers, including ones for our country and people, and regularly led evening prayer at Mount Vernon.
Plan a field trip to Mount Vernon. Ask for student/group discounts. There is so much to see and do that this could easily be an entire day.
Some thought questions:
Research the lives of some of the ancients that Washington admired such as Cato and Cincinnatus. Would we admire them? Why (not)? What does his choice of heroes tell about his character and values?
Write about your heroes (must be people long dead whom you did not know personally and not a family member or friend). Why do you admire him, her, them?
What are your personal and professional goals for your future? How do you plan to achieve them? Washington decided as a young man that he would seek fame and fortune. He was a planner who set daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals. He kept a diary which listed key activities and information about each day. He kept meticulous account of his income and expenditures. He changed careers several times, from surveyor, to military, to politics to farming. (Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin also were very organized people who excelled in many fields.)
What does it mean to be an American today? Washington and his contemporaries prized the best of their English heritage but after winning independence, felt they needed to be distinguished as Americans.
What is worth fighting for? Potentially sacrificing your life and all you own? Washington expected to be hung as a traitor if captured. He led his men in battle, putting his life into certain danger many times. His estate suffered in his absences during the Revolution and his Presidency. He prospered when he could devote time to his interests at Mount Vernon because he was a careful and innovative manager. He saw others impoverished as a result of their patriotism because Congress did not reimburse them for expenses; among them was his brother-in-law Fielding Lewis and friend Carter Braxton (signer of the Declaration of Independence).
What virtues are most admirable and necessary in a leader (civic, military and/or political)? Washington was a justice of the peace, member of the VA House of Burgesses (legislature), head of the VA militia when he was only 23 (a colonel), a diplomatic emissary from Lt. Gov. Dinwiddie to the French at Fort Duquesne (near Pittsburg), commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary forces, and our first President (with no precedents to guide him, he had to decide absolutely everything).
(Many thanks to Ellen Tabb of the GWBCC for assembling these ideas!)