Here at Lawyerist, we get an annual barrage of questions looking for advice about President’s Day. For the first time, we’ve consolidated the most frequently asked questions and come up with some authoritative answers.
At What Age Should We Finally Explain the Truth of the Electoral College to Our Kids?
This is a tricky one that every parent should decide on their own. The standard approach was to wait until your kids are at least ten, but these days, most kids hear the rumors. Their friends talk at school, and you’re just kidding yourself if you think your kids aren’t checking out Electoral College videos on the internet. Try as you might, you can’t block out all the sites. These days, there’s just too much out there, and it’s too easy to find.
However, no parent should even try to explain the nuances of gerrymandering until their kid is 17. This is a hard, R-rated topic and not appropriate for children. Seriously, gerrymandering is the kind of Dark Web stuff that’s hard to unsee.
Do You Have Any Unique Ideas for a President’s Day Costume?
Shop early. Do not show up at 4 in the afternoon on President’s Day Eve and ask for an Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat. You will be publicly mocked by condescending costume shop employees and customers. Those hats are gone months in advance.
Nixon masks are always popular, but they’re actually quite creepy and hard to breathe in.
A unique conversation starter would be a nice Van Buren–inspired pantsuit. You could also surprise some folks with a sensible but instantly recognizable Adlai Stevenson.
Some President’s Day costume parties allow any major party candidate, winner or loser, plus their spouses. Todd Palin’s snowmobile outfit is a sure-fire winner. The bright neon colors absolutely pop in a sea of old English lawyer wigs.
A lot of our Presidents were military men. Don’t think this is off-limits. Washington is more recognizable in his traditional blue-coat general look. Teddy Roosevelt and Ike (bald cap required …) are also more known for their military costumes. But don’t skimp. If you want to invest in a sweet General Ulysses S. Grant, get a good one and you can use it for years to come. Don’t skimp on the accessories, either. The medals make the costume.
One last note on costumes. Hamilton wasn’t a president. It doesn’t matter that he’s on the $10 bill. It doesn’t matter that he’s selling out Broadway for the foreseeable future. If you want to establish a Secretary of the Treasury Day, start lobbying your Senator. But Hamilton wasn’t a President.
I Started Seeing Presidents’ Day Merchandise before Thanksgiving. Isn’t This a Little Early?
Sure, you now hear the Presidential Odes on the radio before Christmas. Stores don’t even wait until after New Years to start selling this crap.
We’d love to go back to the good old days when we all honored our favorite presidents in our own solemn way with our families. Who can’t remember singing our favorite Presidents’ Day standards from our childhood? But time marches on. And your favorite merchants aren’t about to let the massive Presidents’ Day sales spike slip through their fingers. It’s too important to our economy.
Despite the economic impact, we all know the real reason for the holiday. It’s up to each of us to pass on cherished familial Presidents’ Day traditions to the next generation.
I’m Tired of the Same Old President’s Day Menu. Can We Try Something New?
Like what? Stewed rabbit? Pizza? You want to try culinary experiments with the most important meal you have every year? No … no … a thousand times no. While not explicitly covered in Article II of the Constitution, this topic certainly should be. This day is all about honoring Presidents, not cheap prices on sheets that only come once a year!
You want to go basic and go with FDR inspired hot dogs? Fine. But don’t deviate from the list of Presidential favorite foods. People will mock you annually. “Remember when Mom made us have prime rib on President’s Day? How patriotic is that?” The topic will be dredged up year after year and probably discussed at your funeral. Is that how you want to be remembered?
I’m Nervous about the President’s Day Dinner Conversation with the Family. What Topics Should We Avoid When We Have Differing Political Views?
The advice will be different depending on your family, of course. But the basic rule: the more recent the political events, the messier the discussion will be. Trump/Clinton is way too soon for a civilized President’s Day meal. It’s probably too soon to bring up anything as recent as Bush/Gore. But if you find yourself falling into one of those searing arguments about Nixon tossing aside the gold standard or Eisenhower’s bizarro farewell military-industrial complex speech, always remember the fallback: Lincoln.
Everybody will raise their glass to Lincoln. Democrats love him because they think he did great stuff (true) but never had slaves (which rules out some key early Presidents from safe, polite conversation). Republicans love him because, well, he was one of them. They will quickly and repeatedly remind anyone who will listen that he was, in fact, a Republican.
It’s Impossible to Shop for My Spouse for a President’s Day Present. Can You Give Me Some outside the Box Gift Ideas?
You don’t have to spend a fortune to thrill the Presidential fan in your life. A nice Presidential Dollar coin set won’t set you back that much unless you want to splurge and buy mint-fresh.
If you want to go classy, a handsome bronze or marble bust of your loved ones’ favorite president is sure to provide a “wow” moment. Remember, though, this present is for them, not you. If you are a Millard Fillmore junkie but your spouse was raised in a Truman-loving environment, the buck stops there! Make sure you have your camera ready to capture their face when they open one of these priceless heirloom-quality keepsakes.
If you prefer a more modern gift, this year’s hot new President’s Day “it toy” is an interactive electronic electoral map that all the kids want. It lights up beautifully, and you can switch states from red to blue with just a touch while you watch electoral votes climb! Want to know who won which state in 1876? Plug in the election year and the map will light up and show you that South Carolina voted surprisingly. Kids love it, but they’ll have to fight adults to play with it. I don’t want to spoil it, but check out the 1936 map. If blue is your favorite color, that’s your year! If you’re into red, you can’t do much better than Nixon’s re-election in 1972.
Presidential Trivia Is a Big Part of Our Annual Tradition, but I’m Not Good at It. How Do I Not Spoil the Fun for Everyone Else?
Not sure what you want us to say here. Are you looking for someone to condone your obvious lack of patriotism? Are you allergic to memorizing minutia about the forty-five greatest men this planet has ever produced?
Here’s an idea: focus on First Ladies. You can memorize all kinds of Jackie Kennedy tidbits, (almost as lovable as Lincoln—everybody loves Jackie O!) or if you want to go with a classic but feminist-styled winner, Abigail Adams is hard to beat.
But if you’re looking for permission to drive the all-important evening-ending Presidential-Trivia contest into the ditch, sorry. You’ll have to get that permission elsewhere.