Presidents Day: History And Interesting Facts

Posted by Karen Erdelac on Feb 19, 2024

Presidents Day: History And Interesting FactsPresidents Day, originally established in 1885, is celebrated on the third Monday in February. Though many people believe that the day is to honor all U.S. presidents, its official purpose is to celebrate the birth of the country's first president, George Washington. In fact, the holiday was initially called "Washington's Birthday."

The Evolution Of The Holiday

The shift from Washington's Birthday to Presidents Day began in the late 1960s when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This holiday was aimed at creating more three-day weekends for the nation's workers by moving the celebration of several federal holidays to Mondays. During the debate on this bill, there was a proposition to rename the holiday to Presidents Day to honor both Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are both in February. Although this proposal did not pass, the holiday became known as Presidents Day to the public, with marketers using the three-day weekend to promote sales, and the name stuck.

Interesting Facts About Presidents Day

Initially, George Washington's Birthday: Presidents Day was established in 1885 to recognize George Washington's birthday. It is still officially called "Washington's Birthday" by the federal government.

Never Falls on an Actual Birthday: Despite being in honor of George Washington's birthday on February 22, the holiday never falls on his actual birthday. It's observed on the third Monday of February each year.

First Holiday to Honor an Individual American: The holiday became the first to celebrate the life of an individual American when it was created. This set a precedent for honoring individuals with national holidays.

Lincoln's Birthday Is Not Officially Recognized: Abraham Lincoln's birthday is on February 12, but it has never been a federal holiday, though some states have chosen to honor it along with Washington's birthday.

Washington's Farewell Address Tradition: A Senate tradition involves reading President George Washington's farewell address on his birthday. This tradition started in 1862.

Not All States Observe It: Some states, like Indiana, choose to celebrate Washington's birthday in December instead of observing Presidents Day.

Different Names in Different States: Various states refer to it by different names, often choosing "Presidents Day," "Lincoln/Washington/Presidents' Day," or even "Washington and Lincoln Day."

An Occasion for Historical Celebrations: Some historical sites, such as Mount Vernon and Colonial Williamsburg, hold special events or free entrance days in honor of Presidents Day.

Presidents Day Sales: The holiday is known for being a big time for sales, particularly on household goods and cars. Retailers take advantage of the three-day weekend for promotional sales.

So, whether you spend the day reflecting on the contributions of the past U.S. presidents, engaging in civic activities, or taking advantage of the yearly sales, Presidents Day serves as a reminder of the country's rich history and the individuals who have led it.

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