Double Geezer Alert

So, what holiday is Nancy refusing to appear on, on February 22, 1950?

Some choices:

  1. My parents welcomed me into the world. I’m sure it felt like a holiday to my Mom, after a 3 day labor. As I am now a Geezer, that’s Geezer Alert #1. Bushmiller was probably unaware of this.
  2. It was also Ash Wednesday, which it is also is today. That’s more of a holy day (but not a Holy Day of Obligation) than a holiday, though.
  3. February 22 was then the national holiday of Washington’s Birthday, until that was moved to the third Monday in February in 1971. That’s over 50 years ago, so that’s Geezer Alert #2. And, while the national holiday is officially Washington’s Birthday, it’s more commonly known now as Presidents’ Day.
  4. Lastly, if we were asking a ten year old George Washington what day he was born, he would have said February 11, 1731, not February 22, 1732. The British Calendar Act of 1751 to adopt the Gregorian calendar was applied retroactively to some dates, changing both the day and the year. Therefore, the fact that this was rerun on January 31, 2023 seems appropriate.
    • Why would they have changed George’s birthday? The answer may lie in this passage from the British Calendar Act of 1751: “no Person or Persons whatsoever shall be deemed or taken to have attained the said Age of one and twenty Years, or any other such Age as aforesaid, or to have completed the Time of such Service as aforesaid, until the full Number of Years and Days shall be elapsed on which such Person or Persons respectively would have attained such Age, or would have completed the Time of such Service as aforesaid, in case this Act had not been made”. To make the proper calculation of when young George would turn 21, his birthday had to move.

That’s your (over)dose of trivia for today.


  1. “Holiday” comes from “holy day” and if it is Ash Wednesday that is in mind, perhaps Nancy didn’t want anyone to see the ash smudges on her forehead?

  2. In the context of a children’s comic strip in the 1950s, it’s clear that Bushmiller’s intended reference could only be Washington’s birthday. Nancy is not old enough to understand obscure Gregorian calendar games, and while the strip does have patriotic moments, I cannot recall ever seeing a religious reference in it.

  3. Something that has become familiar in modern comics (I won’t say popular) is having a meta episode where the characters in a strip are treated like actors — trying out for different parts, and having contracts etc. But that was probably not readily available to Bushmiller in 1950. If it had been, the element of Nancy being reluctant to “appear” on a holiday (needing explanation) would instead be about “working” on a holiday which is and was a familiar matter.

    Or perhaps I have it completely wrong and that’s exactly what “appear” is used for!

  4. Btw, question for Zbicyclist — in point 4 did you intend to have the year differ for Old Style and New Style, or was that a typo and just the day number was meant to vary? Since eleven says were skipped, I don’t think the year was meant to change.

  5. @ Mitch – There was a time when the traditional beginning of the year was in March (on the 25th‡, I believe), and this was later changed to January 1st. Worse still, all of these alterations were both regional and not simultaneous. This made determining equivalences very complicated.

    P.S. ‡ – Tolkien was a hardnosed traditionalist on many issues, and he included a subtle dig about this in “Lord of the Rings”, by making the first day of the Fourth Age fall on March 25th, with subsequent years beginning on that date. If you can’t have what you want in the real world, at least you can (as an author) have it in your fantasy world.

  6. Although zbicyclist is correct, the move to the Gregorian calendar was not really a full year change. Prior to the change, the English legal year began on March 25, even though most other countries, and even many people in England, considered the new year to begin on January 1. This was just as confusing as it sounds. The Calendar Act moved the legal new year to January 1, so the year changed for the January 1 – March 24 period.

  7. Different cultures have started the year near the winter solstice (when days start getting longer again) or the vernal equinox (when farming is about ready to start). Both have a fair amount of logic as a start to the year.

    Religiously, Christmas was located near the winter solstice on December 25. 9 months before is the Feast of the Annunciation, when the start of the pregnancy of Mary was celebrated. In Roman times, the Julian calendar started Jan 1, but beginning about the 9th century many Catholic countries started beginning the year March 25. England didn’t change to this until the 12th century, and then also delayed adopting the Gregorian reforms until many years after neighboring countries, such as France.

    Now, it strikes us as very odd that you would change the year in the middle of the month, and that the day and year would be different in adjacent countries. But there was less downside to this in bygone times.

  8. I think I got it. But I am out at a medical appointment the rest of the afternoon, and not used to the WP app on the phone

  9. On that note, different states call the third Monday in February by different names (and if they have an apostrophe, put it in different places), because they differ in which presidents they are honoring. For example, in Alabama, it is for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s birthdays.

  10. Recalling a strip where the cartoonist’s hand reached in with an ink stamp to create an image of Nancy and Sluggo. Nancy’s balloon said Bushmiller refused to draw on Labor Day. Limited meta, since the whole strip — hand, ink stamp, figures — was drawn, as usual.

    Pogo had a Sunday page that ended with a big panel filled border-to-border with little turtles. The following week Churchy and Albert were fleeing this multitude, when Howland Owl smugly assured them that Walt Kelly would NEVER draw than many turtles again.

  11. @zbicyclist “Now, it strikes us as very odd that you would change the year in the middle of the month”

    Here in UK Land our tax year ends on April 5th, and this is directly connected to all this 18thC Greg-Joolery tomfoolery:

    “Until 1752 the tax year in Great Britain started on 25th March, old New Year’s Day. In order to ensure no loss of tax revenue, the Treasury decided that the taxation year which started on 25th March 1752 would be of the usual length (365 days) and therefore it would end on 4th April, the following tax year beginning on 5th April.

    “The next difficulty was that 1800 was not a leap year in the new Gregorian calendar but would have been in the old Julian system. Therefore the Treasury moved the year start again from 5th to 6th of April, and this date has remained unchanged ever since.”

  12. Here’s a photo of the Bible page in which his parents recorded George Washington’s birth:

    To avoid confusion as to the year, when writing the New Style date of February 22, 1732 in Old Style, they wrote February 11, 1731/2.

    Pope Gregory changed the calendar in 1582 because the date of Easter was drifting away from where it should be astronomically. This was after Henry VIII cut off ties to Rome and declared himself Defender of the Faith. So as far as Henry was concerned, the Pope had no authority to mess with the calendar, and so England and the Colonies stayed with Old Style for far too long.

  13. My thanks to Winter Wallaby. I had thought that Presidents Day was a uniform, national thing, combining Washington’s and Lincoln’s to make a three-day weekend in between the two. So Alabama makes it also for Jefferson, who was born in April?

    The National Archives site just calls the holiday “Washington’s Birthday (Presidents Day).” The New York Times says “The holiday colloquially known as Presidents’ Day officially celebrates only George Washington’s birthday, though some states have broadened it to include Abraham Lincoln and other past…”

  14. Oh, boy. Something in the comment I just posted put it into “moderation.” Looking it over word by word, I have no idea what WP’s problem is.

  15. @ Boise Ed – This is a venerable tradition. Bill always said that the moderation filter was neither reliable nor predictable. In other words, it’s not your fault, and there’s nothing that you (or the Editors) can do about it, except for rescuing the misdirected comments out of purgatory.

  16. Ed, I think it was only a year ago that someone set me straight about Presidents Day being actually, as an official Federal holiday, just Washington’s Birthday. Like you, I had thought it was meant to combine Washington and Lincoln (and others by unspecified extension), all at the official Federal holiday level. Learning that it was just Washington left me irate on Lincoln’s behalf.
    (But we do have a state holiday in Illinois for Lincoln.)

  17. Winter Wallaby, it seems odd that Alabama celebrates Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in February, since he was born April 13, 1743 (April 2 old style), in Virginia. Three other presidents were born in February: William Henry Harisson ( 1773), Abraham Lincoln (1809), and Ronald Reagan (1911). Is there a reason that Jefferson is special to Alabamans?

  18. For a moment I feared this would turn out to secretly be Jefferson Davis ; but it turns out his birthday was in June.

  19. Ooten Aboot, I don’t know the history, but particularly since it’s a southern state, I suspect the reasoning was something like “let’s make our ideology clear by adding a second great president in here, and make sure it’s not Lincoln.” And, of course, Jefferson being a southerner is a good extra bonus.

  20. Incidentally, I love the idea of having President’s day to celebrate “Washington and Harrison,” since the only think Harrison’s tenure is known for is dying quickly.

  21. WW: ” the only thing Harrison’s tenure is known for is dying quickly.”

    Well, among collectors of presidential autographs it’s also known (I’ve heard) as being the hardest to find. For obvious reasons.

    A lot of “minor” presidents seem to known for only one thing (not always correctly or always fairly); my favorite being WHH’s grandson:

    Higgeldy piggeldy
    Benjamin Harrison
    Twenty-third president was, and as such
    Served between Clevelands
    And save for this trivial
    Didn’t do much.

  22. February 22 is Tex Avery Day. Not exactly a comic strip writer, but close enough that Nancy would honor his day, yes?

  23. And yet I bet everyone here has heard Harrison’s campaign slogan: Tippecanoe, and Tyler too!

    (And John Tyler still has a living grandson.)

  24. My step-brothers and step-sister are descended from John Tyler. But that’s not remarkable. Tyler had 15 children, lots of grand-children, and lots more great-grandchildren.

  25. @ bensondonald – I couldn’t find the “stamp” comic you mentioned, but Bushmiller gave himself a little rest with this strip:

    Twenty-seven years later, the Gilchrists made it even easier on themselves, by recycling the whole idea (and dialog, but with new artwork):

  26. P.S. Olivia Jaimes has continued (and improved on) Bushmiller’s Labor Day tradition, producing a number of innovative strips. I particularly like the 2019 rendintion:

    This “Prince Valiant” parody is a superb poke back at all the infantile jerks who unfairly criticized the changes that Jaimes had made to “Nancy”. Having reviewed a few dozen strips to investigate the Labor Day issue, I have to say that her work is an order of magnitude better than the sappy drivel that Guy Gilchrist produced in his latter years.

  27. My biggest problem with that strip is that it looks like it’s parodying Zippy the Pinhead; OK, she has a sort of paigeboy haircut, and the pointy-toed shoes and the ruffles and the all in captions text, including the “NEXT”, but still, the artwork looks like Bill Griffith!

  28. Washington was born on what became during his life – February 11, 1731 o.s. The o.s. indicating it was “old style” meaning before the calendar was updated for correction. Many people kept their old birth dates and wrote them in this manner – and kept their birthday on the old date. He was actually forward thinking in changing to the adjusted calendar.

    The changeover made all sorts of problems with contracts, apprenticeships, etc. – Robert says “with birthdays, anniversaries etc also”

    I am not sure if the British calendar was the last Christian calendar to be changed to the Gregorian calendar or not.

    Robert points out that (boy am I sorry I forgot the word apprenticeship for a couple of seconds and asked him) on Thomas Jefferson’s grave marker it lists his original birth date marked as o.s.

  29. Mitch 4 – The reason Lincoln’s birthday has not been a Federal holiday is due to the Civil War. The southern states celebrated Jefferson Davis’ birthday instead.

    When Washington’s birthday was changed to a Monday holiday (as otherwise mentioned) it was officially said that while it was “Washington’s Birthday” it was to honor all American Presidents which would in some way allow the Southern states to not protest a holiday for Lincoln.

  30. I think the last Christian nation to change the calendar to new style was Russia. Russia was Christian but Eastern Orthodox Catholic, not Roman Catholic. Maybe the leadership of the Eastern Orthodox church had the same kind of issues about the Pope that Henry VIII did. They weren’t really best friends. Anyway, Russia switched in February, 1918 which is why the anniversary of the October Revolution is in November. Eastern Orthodox churches still use the old calendar to determine the date of Easter but I don’t know if any country still uses it as the civil calendar.

  31. which is why the anniversary of the October Revolution is in November

    …and should we revise the name of The Decembrists?

  32. Nope, still December

    Uprising of the Decembrists’) took place in Russia on 26 December [O.S. 14 December] 1825, following the sudden death of Emperor Alexander I.

  33. Getting back to the subject of “holidays”, I would like to wish everyone here at CIDU a very

    Happy New Year!

    P.S. † – Old Style, of course. 🙂

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