The History of President’s Day

This year the national holiday President’s Day was celebrated on February 18, 2013.

Written by CHRISTOPHER CHIANG / Published February 22, 2013 

To many people living in the United States, Presidents Day is merely another holiday, celebrated on the third Monday of each February.

This year, Presidents Day was celebrated on the 18th of February. Many people, myself included, enjoyed the Monday off, seeing it as a day off from the office or the classroom, but Presidents Day is much more than that.

George Washington was one of the United States’ early founders and Presidents Day was intended to celebrate his birthday, which was on the 22nd of February. It was later moved to be on the third Monday of February so workers could have a three-day weekend as part of the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

However, the change means that Presidents Day can never be on the 22nd of February, the day that it was first celebrated.

Three other presidents of the United States, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, also have birthdays in February but they are also unable to be celebrated on Presidents Day because they are either before or past the third Monday.

Presidents Day has not changed only in its date but also its focus. It was first created to honor only George Washington but now it is a day to honor all presidents of the United States, past, present, and future.

Many Americans may not know the history behind Presidents Day but that does not stop them from celebrating it in whatever way they desire. Some Americans are happy for a day of rest. Some people throw parties. Some communities that have a deeper understanding of their heritage hold festivals on Presidents Day such as Alexandria, Virginia, George Washington’s historic hometown. Some groups also perform Revolutionary War reenactments. Many retailers use the holiday as an opportunity to lure shoppers to their stores with three-day Presidents Day sales.

Presidents Day is also a federal holiday. The federal government, along with many state and local governments observe the holiday for their employees.

Though many businesses and higher-level education institutions still conduct business and hold classes on the day, despite the fact that it is a federal holiday, Presidents Day is a day to honor our national leaders.

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