The President’s Day History
U.S. Presidents Day, officially known as Washington’s Birthday, is a federal holiday in the United States and is celebrated on the third Monday of February. In 2008, Presidents Day falls on February 18.
Although it has become known as a great weekend for sales, especially on cars, there’s a lot more to the holiday. Presidents Day is a good chance to learn more about American History, civic responsibility and even U.S. Geography. The site below can help you celebrate and have some fun.
Presidents Day was originally designated in honor of George Washington’s birthday and is still legally called “Washington’s Birthday.” The first president of the United States was born on February 22, 1732.
The Early Life of George Washington
Born on February 22, 1732, George Washington became one of the most recognizable figures in American history. In his years as a youth, he worked as a surveyor in his home state of Virginia. When he was in his 20s, he became an ambassador to the Indians and the French. During the French and Indian War, he served under the famous General Edward Braddock as a colonel and later a commander. Because of his resilience and versatility, the Second Continental Congress chose him in 1775 as the leader of the army. From there, he was able to win many victories over the British on the nation’s path to independence
The Contributions of George Washington
Every respectable citizen of the United States knows the name George Washington, but few know the actual impact that he had on the creation of the nation. We all know that he was the first United States president, but his involvement in certain major events lead up to him getting his moniker as the “Father of Our Country.”
Some of his major accomplishments included:
*Leading the United States to victory in the Revolutionary War
*Leading his forces through many battles that were seemingly un-winnable
*Presiding over the Constitutional Convention, the committee that was the precursor to the creation of the Constitution of the United States
*Walking away from power in order to show the nation that he was not an appointed king, but rather a mere man that was elected to the position
*Being the only United States President to get 100% of the electoral votes
*Refusing to initially accept a salary as president to retain his selfless image
*Appointing the first justices to the United States Supreme Court
*Being a successful farmer and plantation owner
*Motivating the people of a new nation to fight for their independence from England
February 22 – George Washington’s Actual Birthday and Holiday
He was the first President of the United States and his face is on the one-dollar bill. Other than that and the cherry tree incident, George Washington seems to be a man of mystery for most people. February 22, though, was a day that the entire nation would celebrate his birthday. Schools weren’t in session and government offices would close to commemorate the contributions that the “Father of Our Country” made.
The first President’s Day holiday was celebrated in Washington, D.C. in 1880, more than 100 years after George Washington was sworn in as Commander in Chief. The federal government made February 22nd an official holiday and it was the first one of its kind that was specifically honoring a citizen of the United States.
Changing the Celebration for Convenience
After nearly 100 years of celebrating the birthday of George Washington on the actual day of his birth, Congress shifted the commemoration from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. This official act changed the major federal holidays – Washington’s Birthday, Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day – to a designated Monday. The act also created Columbus Day, a holiday designed to commemorate the day that Christopher Columbus landed in America in 1492. In later years, the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday became officially recognized on a designated Monday in January as well.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was created for the simple reason that it would give federal employees more three-day weekends. Other holidays were considered, like Independence Day and Thanksgiving, but federal holidays are the only ones that were covered under the act. Veterans’ Day got moved back to its original day shortly after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed.
Confusion Surrounding President’s Day
A great deal of misinformation surrounds the holiday that was once Washington’s Birthday and its transformation into what is now the President’s Day Holiday. One of the most common misconceptions is that it was a way to combine Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays together since Lincoln’s actual birthday was February 12. Others thought that President’s Day turned into a holiday to commemorate all of the men who have served as President of the United States.
As a result of this confusion, some states have taken matters into their own hands so they can commemorate the holiday as they see fit. For example, Massachusetts has two holidays set aside to celebrate the presidents. According to the state government’s website, May 29 is a day set aside to celebrate the lives of the presidents that hailed from the state. The state also officially recognizes the third Monday in February as a day to celebrate Washington’s Birthday specifically.
Alabama also observes the holiday in a unique way. Instead of just calling it “Washington’s Birthday,” it is recognized throughout the state as “Washington and Jefferson Day,” even though Thomas Jefferson was born in April. Connecticut recognizes President’s Day, but it also recognizes Lincoln’s actual birthday as a state holiday.
In Washington’s birthplace, Virginia, the state recognizes the holiday as “George Washington Day.”
The Holiday in Today’s America
In the last decade or so, this once respected holiday has become a way for federal workers to get a long weekend and a way for furniture stores to make bigger profits.
If you turn on the television or open up the newspapers on the days leading up to this weekend, you can’t escape the mattress advertisements and sales in other industries.
In addition to that, the majority of schools no longer celebrate the President’s Day Holiday. Instead, the day is the starting point for a week off from school as a “mid-winter break.” This is yet another way in which the holiday has become a “watered down” version of what it was originally created to be.
The school curriculum was once designed to teach students about the contributions of George Washington and the other presidents in the days leading up to the holiday. It was once a holiday that garnered respect among the citizens of the country. Today, unfortunately, even true patriots scarcely recognize the day as anything more than an excuse to go out of town for the long weekend.