Contributed by Guest Author, Grace Sammons
Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash
Today is the third Monday in February…
Happy Presidents’ Day!
As we celebrate and honor all U.S presidents, let’s dive into the history of this patriotic holiday! Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday that is celebrated each year on the third Monday of February. However, that wasn’t always the case. Traditionally, Americans celebrated as Washington’s Birthday on February 22, starting in 1885. It wasn’t until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was set in place in 1971, that the holiday began taking place on the third Monday in February and officially became known as Presidents Day, honoring all U.S presidents. However, there are still some states throughout the United States that have holidays to celebrate the individual birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other Presidents.
In Virginia, today is George Washington Day. Some other states also recognize today as George Washington’s birthday. And although there is often the sense that President’s Day Honors Abraham Lincoln as well, his actual birthday, February 12, is not as widely recognized as it once was. Lincoln’s birthday is recognized with wreath laying ceremonies at his birthplace in Kentucky and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
So what kinds of events take place on Presidents’ day? Well, when the holiday was first moved from Washington’s birthday, people tended to celebrate both Washington and Lincoln on this day. This is because the holiday now falls in between their birthdays. As years have gone by, different states choose to celebrate American leaders differently. Washington and Lincoln are still the two most recognized leaders, and in the early 2000s congress did propose that we restore the celebration of their individual birthdays, however the proposal failed to gain much attention. That’s not to say we don’t recognize these leaders on their birthday, they just aren’t federal holidays.
While it’s not typical to have a big patriotic celebration such as fireworks and parades on this day, it is still very much a holiday. This means many kids are out of school, and mom and dad may even have a day off work. Banks are closed, post offices are closed and the New York Stock Exchange will not be trading today. Some families celebrate by having a cookout, while others simply take the holiday to enjoy a long weekend off. (And of course, it is a great time to go shopping as many retailers use this long weekend to promote special sales and savings.)
So who would you honor on this very special US Holiday? Who is your favorite president and what do you believe they did for America?