The House has thrown away another tradition, the reading of George Washington's farewell address in the House chamber on the annual observance of his birthday.

Since 1929 it has been the custom in both House and Senate to designate a junior member to read the 45-minute address with which Washington took leave of government after eight years as the nation's first president.

But almost no one shows up to listen. In the House, leaders of both parties finally agreed there must be a better tribute than to read in a nearly empty chamber a long speech Washington himself never delivered but simply submitted.

"We we might do," said a member yesterday when told the annual reading was off, "is have the majority leader or someone make a speech to explain what Washington was talking about." Most people know only that he cautioned against entangling alliances -- an admonition ignored in recent years.

Anyway, the legal holiday next Monday doesn't fall on Washington's birthday. Formerly celebrated on Feb. 22, it has been converted to the third Monday of the month to provide a three-day weekend. So next Monday the House will take a holiday, while the Senate will convene to have a reading of the farewell address.

The House has also knocked off another abservance that didn't attract a full house -- the annual June 14 Flag Day celebration. It involved the chamber, marching a color guard down the center aisle and listening to a member make a speech.