Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jersey Lore

While the rest of the world (north of the equator anyway) prefers to celebrate the arrival of Spring this month, here in New Jersey on the second Saturday we have a holiday of a somewhat more dubious character: Peeing Day. Yes, really. It commemorates the Battle of Princeton in 1777, which is among the handful of battles George Washington actually won. (George was better at just barely escaping catastrophe than he was at winning, though this talent shouldn’t be underestimated.) He gave the main British force under Cornwallis the slip at Trenton and struck instead at the much smaller British garrison under Mahwood in Princeton, NJ. Mahwood put up a very hard fight nonetheless, but in the end was forced to retreat. It seems that many of the Continentals encouraged the redcoats on their way by the method which gives the day its name. I can’t imagine that American forces were anywhere near close enough to the British for this to have been an effective weapon of war, but sometimes a gesture alone counts for something.

Revolutionary War buffs will note that the Battle of Princeton took place on January 3, not on a second Saturday in March, and they are correct. Until 1884, Peeing Day was commemorated on January 3. As you can imagine, however, certain aspects of the battle reenactments performed as part of the celebration are often a bit…well…chilly in January. So, the date was changed to something more comfortable.

Peeing Day was suspended altogether only once. That was in 1918: the Anglo-American alliance and all that.

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