A Few Facts About President’s Day

February is a popular month among our past presidents – both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were born in February (as were William H Harrison and Ronald Reagan), and President’s Day falls on the third Monday of the month. But who exactly does President’s Day celebrate?

It all started in 1800. After George Washington’s death in 1799, his birthday (February 22) became a national day of remembrance. The 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 kept Washington’s memory in the national spotlight, and the tradition endured. In 1879, Washington’s Birthday officially became a federal holiday. At first, it was only celebrated in the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country.

Washington was the first individual to be honored with a federal holiday; it would be another 98 years before Martin Luther King, Jr. became the second.

As we all know, President’s Day doesn’t fall on Washington’s February 22nd birthday. This is because in 1971, Richard Nixon signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law shifted several federal holidays from predetermined dates to designated Mondays. The bill received support from both the private sector (who knew that more long weekends would increase retail sales) and labor unions (who liked the idea of more long weekends for workers). The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine Abraham Lincoln’s February 12th birthday and George Washington’s February 22nd birthday; in many states, both birthdays were celebrated.

Thus, President’s Day was born. Though originally intended to celebrate Washington and Lincoln specifically, the holiday is now popularly seen as a day to celebrate all presidents, past and present.

Some states have even chosen to customize the holiday by adding new figures to the celebration. Arkansas, for instance, celebrates Washington as well as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates. Alabama, meanwhile, uses Presidents Day to commemorate Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).

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President’s Day

IMG_0434_2President’s Day celebrates the presidents of the United States of America. This holiday is observed on the third Monday in February despite Abraham Lincoln’s birthday being on February 12th while George Washington’s is just ten days later, on February 22nd. Fun Fact: Not just Washington and Lincoln were born in February. William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan are also two other presidential February birthdays.

When George Washington was alive in the 1700s, his birthday was celebrated by much of the US, therefore observing it as a holiday. President’s Day was established in 1885 for George Washington since as he was the first President. In 1968 the first attempt to make this a national holiday failed but the second attempt (1971) was successful. Thanks to this, federal offices, schools, and even the post office will be closed to observe Washington’s Birthday, called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to give workers a three-day weekend.

However, it’s not just Washington who gets all the attention. Some states celebrate Washington, others celebrate Washington and another person, while others celebrate both Washington and Lincoln, like my home state of California. usa46n_os_-00_main_4ft-x-6ft-nylon-us-flag-online-stores-brand_1

For President’s Day, you can raise Old Glory in honor of the presidents. It is a great way to show your patriotism and respect for these pioneers in American history. Of course, you can always raise the flag for any president, veteran, or service member you would like to celebrate.

Did you know? In the 1980s, retail stores began to use President’s Day as a marketing opportunity. Since people start to get income tax checks this time of year and many businesses are closed for the holiday, it gave consumers the benefit of time and availability to hit the sales, and the retailers a boost to their after-Christmas slumps.

~CD