If George Washington were alive today, he would not be too surprised to learn that a national holiday had been established in his honor. That's because it was also a celebrated occasion during his own life time, when his birthday provided the perfect opportunity for the new nation to honor its victorious commander-in-chief and first president.
Washington himself paid little attention to his birthday, and surviving domestic records include no mention of family birthday observances at Mount Vernon. Instead, Washington's diary shows that he most often spent the day hard at work answering correspondence and managing his Mount Vernon estate.
Another birthday in 1788 garnered this brief entry in his diary:
“About 10 o'clock last night it began to snow and continued to do so all night and till afternoon this day-- but as it drifted much the depth cd. not be ascertained.. I remained at home all day.”
George Washington's Diary
February 22, 1788
The snowfall, which kept Washington indoors on his 56th birthday, was only six inches according to another source, hardly enough to have kept Mount Vernon's master from making his usual circuit of the five farms.
Age had doubtless taken its toll. Sixteen years earlier Washington had ridden out when the snow was so deep it came "up to the breast of a Tall horse everywhere..." That storm eventually confined Washington to home as well, but not before he had measured his endurance against the power of nature.