Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In honor of....

Happy 199th Birthday Mr. Lincoln!

When I was growing up we used to get Lincoln's birthday off from school. At the beginning of February teachers would put his picture up on classroom wall, and sometimes we would make log cabins out of pretzel sticks. Other years we would make black top hats out of construction paper to wear as we had a party in the classroom in his honor.

EVERYONE knew about Abe Lincoln: He was honest, he walked a long way to return a book he had borrowed, he studied in front of the fire in his cabin.

It wasn't until much later that we delved into the horrors of the Civil War and his years of leadership in a very troubled time.

The one fact that we all knew by heart though was: "President Lincoln freed the slaves."

A few years ago I was working in an elementary school. I had a chance to talk to some kids; they were probably around seven, eight or nine years old.

I asked them who Lincoln was. They were not sure.
I asked them who Martin Luther King was.
They all agreed that King had been a President of the United States.
They firmly disagreed with me when I informed them otherwise.

I'm a big fan of Google. Today when I went to the Google home page I noticed that the colorful Google letters were in usual style.
The Google logo is often changed to give a nod to specific holidays.
The 50th anniversary of Lego bricks was honored on January 28th for instance. You can see some of the logo changes here.
And incidently, Martin Luther King has been honored every year on his birthday for the past several years.

Curiously, and outrageously, the same has not been true for any of the birthdays of Mr. Lincoln.

I guess freeing the slaves and being President just isn't important enough to warrant a Google logo.

Honestly. What ever is the world coming to when Lego blocks trumps a history changing President.

Or freeing people from the horrors of slavery.

If you wish to remind yourself about the details of Mr. Lincoln's life, here is a link to a site about him and his life. Perhaps you would like to spread the word about his life today as well by noting that today is his birthday on your blog too!

Please share a memory in the comments of this blog of how you used to celebrate Mr. Lincoln's birthday as a child if you have a memory of doing so. I'd really be interested in learning how other parts of the country celebrated his birthday.

(PS: I intend to email google about this as well. Feel free to drop them a line too. Click here to write to them.)


Erin said...

I can't really remember ever doing anything specific in school for Lincoln's birthday ... Perhaps construction paper stovepipe hats, at one point.

Anonymous said...

I remember having the day off - especially since it was one of my best friend's birthdays as well. I recently read a fascinating book about how our attitudes toward Lincoln have changed over the years - Land of Lincoln by Andrew Ferguson. Recommending a book to a librarian takes some nerve, but if you haven't read it you might enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember that we had Lincoln's birthday off from school, but it's possible (I have truly forgotten!). I know that Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays were observed separately (why were they ever combined?) back then. I can't remember much that we did from my early school years in observance of his birthday, but Abe was definitely in our studies. We share the same state of birth, and his formative years were spent in the community just across the Ohio River from where I grew up. The Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial, his mother's gravesite, and an historic village are located there in Spencer County, IN.

Today (his 199th birthday) marks the beginning of the celebration of the Lincoln Bicentennial. There is a ceremony in Hodgenville, KY, kicking this off today. There are numerous other events scheduled for this yearlong celebration. Those can be found at Lincoln Bicentennial. Another great website full of info is here.

Anyway, I do remember that our studies for that week were devoted to Lincoln and his life, and I remember having to memorize the “Gettysburg Address.” I also remember making a silhouette of Lincoln’s profile during Art time. Beyond that, I’m getting “brain strain” trying to remember that long ago!

Thanks for the link to let Google know that they have neglected this great man! (I sure hope all of those links work...)

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for pointing this out! Isn't it amazing how our culture can shift allegiances so quickly?

I too did the pretzyl log cabins. We always used the straight pretzyls and glued them over milk cartons. I kept mine on my desk at home until it got mouldy.

Another favorite was tracing Lincoln's silhouette on black construction paper, then also tracing our own. We had a wall of silhouettes in black, which in hindsight, is very appropriate symbolism. I think it was just a victorian fad to do your portrait that way, but having us all imagine ourselves as black or see ourselves as black for a moment, even just as a silhouette, I think that's a powerful way to remember him.

Dawn said...

We always had the day off from school. Like you...we did different things to commemorate this great man. I can remember a booklet that we made with his silhouette on the front. There were several pages to highlight his life.
The little girl-who suggested he grow a beard-was from a nearby community here in western NY state.

Lovella ♥ said...

Being a Candian we certainly didn't have a day off of school but we sure were taught that he freed the slaves in your country.
Good for you to get the band wagon going on the google poke them (as it were) ..
It is so odd at how our culture is changing to be what society considers valued.

Jane Carlstrom said...

Your interests, social conscience and diversity never cease to amaze me.

The late 1950s were my grad school time. Washington and Lincoln birthdays were both honored as Holidays and on the exact day, not on a Monday. Lots of stores were closed too.

We prepared in school with stories - some read, some we wrote our own version with our own drawings, - and making construction paper silhouettes of each president. I seem to remember stories of both presidents as boys.

Not sure of the rest as having a father who was a Civil War buff, we had lots of exposure to stories, pictures, books, poems at home. As young as 4-5 years old we stood on our chairs after supper and recited our particular poems - mine was Barbara Fritchie.

I cannot remember a time that I did not know the Gettysburg Address. Do recall being horrified as a teen when learned that most people did not even hear it, they were just getting settled in for many hours of words when Lincoln finished.

Also living in Detroit, Michigan, we oft visited Greenfield Village. The rocking chair in which Lincoln was seated when shot by Booth is vivid in my memory.

Oh yes and Walter Cronkrite's "You Were There" usually featured something about Lincoln.

Interesting to read your reflections and those of your readers.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I wish I could say I remembered what we did in school to honor Abraham Lincoln, but I don't. I do remember about the log cabin, studying by candle light, and walking all that way to return something, and of course freeing the slaves.....but some of those things I may remember from a biography I read about him when I was a kid. I'm sure he was mentioned at some point but I don't recall how or when!

I wonder if Google is going to do something next Monday for both Lincoln and Washington? Yes, why did they ever combine their birthdays anyway?

Anonymous said...

We used Popsicle sticks for our cabins--not craft sticks, but real bona fide Popsicle sticks that we saved up for months for the event. We would set one up at one end of the playground and another one at the other end of the playground with a book. Then we would walk from the first cabin to the second, borrow the book, walk back home to the first cabin, read the book by "candlelight" ( a stick with a fuzzy Russian olive attached to the top) and then walk the book back to the other cabin. By the time we got back to the first cabin again, we really were appreciating what it meant for Lincoln to walk so far to borrow a book and then to return it as well.
And yes, this was on the actual day of his birthday. I don't remember getting off school on either day, since we were busy celebrating in class. But then, there weren't many days off for anything except Christmas and Easter vacations and Columbus day.

We made baskets of construction paper cherries for Washington's birthday to commemorate the cherry tree that he cut down. That day, dessert was always cherry cobbler.

As for Martin Luther King day--that was history to be made far into the future, so we had no idea that it would some day be a special day. I do not understand how he rates as higher than Lincoln or Washington. He was a good man, but did not lead his country during an important war that changed our history as did the presidents.

I would love to see these holidays reinstated in their original glory, along with Columbus day. These were men to be honored.

PS--I just asked my kids, ages 14-22 and found out that I have been negligent--they had no idea why we would celebrate their birthdays. I just got the classic "They were not holy and a holiday is a holy day." Oh woe is me....