Celebrated each year on the third Monday of February, President’s Day commemorates the presidencies of our nation's past leaders. Though a national holiday, not many people are aware of why there is such a day or what they're supposed to do to celebrate it.
The story of President's Day dates back to the year 1800 – the year after President George Washington's passing. Having been born on February 22nd, many Americans started celebrating our country's very first president on his birthday following his death. During this time, Washington was widely seen from state to state as one of the most important figures in the history of America. In 1832, Americans came together to celebrate Washington’s birthday, giving way to a historical event known as the centennial of his birth. And a few years later in 1848, the construction of the Washington Monument began. Washington's birthday was unofficially observed throughout the 1800s and it wasn't until the 1870s that this day was designated a federal holiday. While the initial proclamation applied only to the District of Columbia, the holiday was expanded to apply to the entire country in 1885.
We no longer celebrate President's Day on George Washington's actual birthday due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Passed by Congress during the late 1960s, this law was established as a way to shift the dates of specific holidays so that they would create three day weekends instead of landing in the middle of the week. This was supposed to allow the working class to celebrate and spend time observing the holiday without worrying about skipping mid-week days of work. Three day holiday weekends also foster tourism, therefore boosting the economy for America's most popular tourist destinations.
It is well known that President’s Day also celebrates Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Since his birthday is February 12th, the senators that wrote the Uniform Monday Holiday act combined Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday into one day. With the holiday now being used to celebrate both Washington and Lincoln, many felt it was time to give it a new name. This is when members of Congress started referring to it as 'President's Day' instead of 'Washington's Birthday'. The holiday has since evolved to celebrate all American presidents past and present, living or deceased.
With a patriotic background similar to 4th of July and Memorial Day, President's Day is the perfect time to reflect on what makes the founding of the United States unique. These days, Americans observe the holiday in a number of ways. Groups such as the Boy Scouts of America hold celebrations, while some others host reenactments of American Independence featuring our country's first president. The curriculum of most public schools also requires instructors to teach the story and accomplishments of Washington, Lincoln and other American presidents. Various cities across the country will also celebrate by throwing parades or festivals with a focus on patriotism. Don’t forget President’s day is a flag flying holiday, so displaying an American flag outside your home or business is a simple, but easy way to commemorate our presidents and celebrate this federal holiday.