Skip to main content

Presidents Day: The Evolution Over the Decades

presidents-day-the-evolution-over-the-decades

Presidents Day facts

When I was a schoolgirl in the early 1960s I attended an all-black elementary school where I recall observing the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on separate dates in February. We were told that Washington who was born on the 22nd was the father of our nation and that Lincoln whose birthday was on the 12th had freed the slaves. We drew pictures and our teachers shared Washington are celebrated on Presidents’ Day, which is observed in the United States on the third Monday in February. . This date is also considered by some to be a day to recognize all 46 presidents' past and present. Combining the two men's celebration and observing them on a Monday has a dual benefit. because you don't have to remember their separate birthdays and it gives Federal employees a 3 day holiday weekend.

The origin

The origin of Presidents’ Day goes back to the 1880s when Washington was the first president of the United States and also the commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. His birthday was first celebrated as a federal holiday. In 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which shifted a number of federal holidays to Mondays. Prior to this, it was just an unofficial date on the calendar that was acknowledged each February 22nd. The change was designed to give Federal employees an additional 3 day weekend of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Lincoln's date of birth was never an official holiday but was on the calendar and mentioned each year.

presidents-day-the-evolution-over-the-decades

Changes are made

In 1971 Presidents’ Day became the accepted name, rather than saying it was Washington and Lincoln's celebration. This was due in part to the fact that retailers’ made money by promoting President's Day sales and continue to do so. These sales now continue for an entire week and are advertised with television commercials. There are ceremonies on the third Monday in the second month that take place throughout the nation. George Washington, our first president is considered by Americans to be “The Father of Our Country”, although in recent years this has been debated.. There are reports that suggest he was actually the fourth commander in chief and John Hanson was the first. Washington was the first official leader of the nation and for many Americans will always be considered as such. American citizens actually began celebrating Washington’s birthday just a few months after his death on December 14, 1779, The observation became official when in 1885 President Chester Alan Arthur signed a bill turning Washington’s birthday, on the 22nd of February, into a federal holiday. President Lincoln’s birthday on the 12th of February was only celebrated as a state holiday for states that were outside of the old Confederacy.

Additional facts

Presidents' Day is currently one of only 11 "permanently established" US holidays. Every year, on this date, t in Washington D.C., the current President of the United States, hosts a special event to commemorate the occasion.As part of the celebrations, “George Washington’s Farewell Address” is read in the Senate, and Americans to expected to reflect on the values of their nation and the found9ing fathers. This has been met with resistance by some in recent years because Washington was a slaveholder. There are other ways President's Day is observed including schools being closed in a number of states and during special ceremonies. the lives of American presidents and their accomplishments are mentioned with specific special emphasis on Lincoln and Washington. Bringing to light facts that dispel myths we have believed is beneficial but we cannot cancel or erase the parts of our past history that we find uncomfortable. To be fair is should be noted that while Washington had been a slave owner he stipulated in his will that upon the death of his wife Martha all of his slaves were to be set free. Washington died on Decem, ber 14,1799, and his true cause of death is not known. He is believed to have passed away from a severe throat infection although the medical community still debates today. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Boothe on April 15th, 1865.

Scroll to Continue

Related Articles