On Monday, February 20, 2017, America celebrates President’s Day. A state holiday in most states, President’s Day is also known as George Washington’s Birthday and Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday. But is there more to President’s Day than a day off work?
A Brief History of President’s Day
The origins of President’s Day lie in 1800, a year after the death of President George Washington.
Washington’s birthday, which fell on February 22, became an annual day of remembrance and celebration for the American people. Washington’s birthday did not become an official federal holiday until the 1870s, when an Arkansas senator proposed the bill and President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law.
In the 1960s, Congress proposed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which shifted the celebration of multiple federal holidays into a series of Mondays. The intent behind this shift was to create more three-day weekends for workers (to increase morale and reduce “sick days”). Included in this act was a provision combining Washington’s birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s February 12 birthday.
Although the act passed in 1968 and the holiday was moved to the third month in February, the idea of renaming the holiday “President’s Day” (put forth by the measure writers) met with resistance and was subsequently dropped.
Marketing soon took up where legislation left off. The shift from Washington’s official birthday left the impression that the holiday was meant to celebrate both Washington and Lincoln, and advertisers did not miss the opportunity to use the three-day weekend to promote “President’s Day” sales. By the 1980s, the holiday was known to most as President’s Day, and often showed up as such on state calendars.
Today, President’s Day is seen as a day of patriotic celebration and a chance to celebrate the achievements of all our Presidents, not just Washington and Lincoln.
Fun Facts About President’s Day
- To this day, President’s Day still officially known as “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.
- At the time of its creation Washington’s Birthday was one of only five federally recognized bank holidays — the others being Christmas, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
- Washington’s Birthday was the first holiday to celebrate the life of a single American. The second such holiday would not be recognized until 1983, at the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
- Because of the popular folk tale about George Washington cutting down a cherry tree and then saying “I cannot tell a lie,” cherries are among the most popular items for making desserts for Washington’s Birthday celebrations.
Celebrating President’s Day
President’s Day is an occasion for many historical or patriotic groups to put together re-enactments, celebrations, and other observances. Many schools also observe President’s Day with lessons about the accomplishments of past presidents, usually Washington and Lincoln.
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From the most modest school outing to the biggest President’s Day re-enactment, Metropolitan Shuttle has you covered. Contact us today for a free quote and find out what we can do for you.