Until 1752, Britain and her colonies were still using the Julian calendar. Under this system, March 25 was considered the first day of the new year. Benjamin Franklin’s birth date was then recorded as January 6, 1705, and George Washington’s February 11, 1731 (Old Style).
When the calendar was changed to reflect the Georgian system, which is the one we still use, dates were altered by eleven days, making Franklin’s birthday, as we know it, January 17, 1706 and Washington’s February 22, 1732.
George Washington was born on February 11, 1732 at Pope’s Creek, the Washington family’s plantation on the Potomac. He was born while the Old Style calendar was still in use; when the English calendar was reformed in 1752, all dates were changed by eleven days and so his birthday became February 22.
The apocryphal story of young George chopping down the cherry tree dates back to an early Washington biography for children by Mason LockeWeems, who was well acquainted with the family. In the book, Washington does not actually chop the tree down, but rather just skins off a bit of its bark. The story conforms to the pattern of a Washington family legend in which a teenaged George Washington attempted to ride a high-spirited horse; the horse died under him of a heart attack, and George confessed the deed to his mother, who regretted the loss of her horse but praised her son for telling the truth. Pastor Weems may have invented the cherry tree in order to make the story more appropriate for children.