National Virginia Day is an unofficial holiday observed annually on January 14th with the goal of celebrating the history, heritage, and people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. While not a nationally recognized event, the day honors Virginia’s rich culture and the many notable Virginians who have shaped America over the centuries. It gives residents and enthusiasts alike a chance to learn about and appreciate the accomplishments and characteristics that make Virginia unique.
Why January 14th?
The designation of January 13th as National Virginia Day remains unexplained. Some sources point to this date coinciding with the founding year of 1607 when the first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown. Others suggest January 13th falls in the heart of winter when people may be more inclined to research their state and its history. Regardless of its exact origin, National Virginia Day provides an occasion for Virginians everywhere to connect with state pride.
Traditions and Cultural Identity of the Old Dominion
A Deeply Historic Land
With over 400 years of storied history, Virginia has played an integral role in the development of America. Jamestown served as the first permanent English colony, helping establish the economic, political, and cultural foundations of what would become the United States. From there, historic homes like Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier dot Virginia’s landscapes and small towns. Learning about Virginia’s history helps better understand America.
One of the top tourist destinations in Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg immerses visitors in 18th century colonial life through living history museums, historic buildings, craft demonstrations, and costumed interpreters. Wandering the streets of this meticulously reconstructed capital of Virginia transports people back to America’s revolutionary beginnings.
Distinct Regional Cultures
Due to its geography lying along the coast and extending west to the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia fostered many unique regional cultures over time. Tidewater Virginia along wetlands and seaside continues maritime traditions and watermen’s ways. Central Piedmont areas remain agriculturally driven. And Southwest Virginia preserves Appalachian Mountain music, crafts, and folklore of Scots-Irish ancestry.
Shenandoah Valley Bluegrass
The mountain valleys of Virginia birthed American bluegrass music during the 19th century. To this day, the Shenandoah remains deeply immersed in keeping the old-time style alive through summer music camps, festivals, and informal jam sessions held on front porches or around campfires well into the night.
Distinct Cuisine and Beverages
Virginia’s culinary traditions span from coastal seafood like crab cakes, oysters and softshell crabs to mountain springhouse cheeses and sorghum syrup making. Virginians also claim sweet potato soufflé, Smithfield ham, peanuts, and barbecue as signatures. The state is renowned globally for its brandy, bourbon, apple brandy, and of course, wines.
Virginia Wine Country
With a booming viticulture industry established since the 1970s, Virginia now ranks fifth nationally in total wine production. Visitors tour picturesque wineries dotting the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge valleys, sampling award-winning vintages such as viognier, chardonnay, and cabernet franc grown on the state’s charming grapes.
Notable Virginians and Their Contributions
Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson
Two of America’s most renowned statesmen and patriots both called Mount Vernon and Monticello home. Washington led the Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War and later served as the nation’s first president. Jefferson penned America’s founding Declaration of Independence and served as the third president as well as a Renaissance man of science, art, and education.
Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War
Born in Kentucky, Lincoln lived in coastal Virginia for much of his childhood and cited the Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County as one of his most cherished childhood memories. As the 16th president, Lincoln helped end slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation while also preserving the Union during the American Civil War. Many crucial battles occurred on Virginia soil.
Inventors and Innovators
Virginians invented or improved indispensable technologies like the Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog breed, postage stamp, light bulb, fiducial brass marker, fountain pen, jennies for dredging rivers, and the Conestoga wagon. Iconic inventor Thomas Edison constructed one of his very first laboratories in Virginia. Aeronautics pioneer Samuel Langley made huge strides in aviation from the Hilltop at Roanoke.
Artists and Authors
From poet Edgar Allan Poe to jazz genius Ella Fitzgerald, Virginians made immense cultural contributions through literature, visual arts, dance, and music. Novelists like James Baldwin and John Grisham remain globally renowned. Painters like Grandma Moses and cinematographer Haskell Wexler earned acclaim. Virginia nurtured innumerable talented creatives.
Celebrating Natural Virginia
Unspoiled Coastline and Beaches
Virginia boasts over 3,315 miles of tidal shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. The Delmarva Peninsula and Eastern Shore are renowned for pristine sandy beaches and maritime forests. Popular hotspots include Chincoteague, Virginia Beach, Cape Charles, and Tangier Island.
Blue Ridge Mountains
The mountain spine of the Blue Ridge Range cuts spectacularly through Virginia. Iconic natural landmarks in these scattered mountain slopes and valleys incorporate Skyline Drive, the Peaks of Otter, and Natural Bridge. Abundant trails invite hiking, camping and angling in undisturbed woodlands.
National and State Parks
Virginians take pride in preserving natural areas through an extensive network of public lands. Notable examples contain Shenandoah National Park, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Hungry Mother State Park, First Landing State Park, and Breaks Interstate Park on the Kentucky border. Outdoor recreation thrives all year.
Away from cities, rural Virginia shelters abundant wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, bald eagles, ospreys, black bears, bobcats, and beavers. Birders flock to spots on the migratory Atlantic Flyway. In springtime, viewers delight watching baby seals or newborn ponies on Assateague Island.
Virginia continues feeding America through diverse farms producing vegetables, fruits, beef cattle, poultry and more. Family tobacco plantations still cultivate iconic bright leaf. Pastoral vistas unfold along scenic byways like the Heart of Appalachia Byway or Monticello Wine Trail admiring working lands. Many offer U-pick operations, taffy pulls, and old-fashioned country auctions.
In conclusion, National Virginia Day offers a perfect opportunity to explore Virginia’s deep history, vibrant cultures, influential figures, natural landscapes, and culinary traditions that make it truly unique. With so much to discover, it’s no wonder over 8 million Americans proudly call Virginia home each year. On this day honoring the Old Dominion, residents rejoice in their state’s special character and contributions to the United States from past to present.