What is Presidents’ Day?

Claire Moylan, Features Editor

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By the time this article is published, Presidents’ Day would have already passed. Despite this, the original reason for the establishment of Presidents’ Day will just be occurring: George Washington’s birthday. Presidents’ Day became a holiday to celebrate the accomplishments of America’s first president. Initially, celebrating Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance, only done in certain regions of the country. By 1879, former president Rutherford B. Hayes signed the law making Washington’s Birthday an official holiday in Washington D.C. This was later expanded to encompass the entire country in 1885.

In the 1960s, Washington’s Birthday began to transform into the Presidents’ Day we know today. The Uniform Monday Act, supported by Senator Robert McClory, suggested to combine George Washington’s birthday (February 22) with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) into one holiday celebration called Presidents’ Day. Lincoln’s birthday was already celebrated in many states. However, his birthday was not a designated federal holiday, like Washington’s. Later in 1968, Richard Nixon made this change official, but the name Presidents’ Day was rejected by Congress. The government also moved Presidents’ Day to the third Monday of February instead of celebrating it on Washington’s birthday.

In 1971, Presidents’ Day became the official name for the celebration of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. This decision benefited businesses who promoted sales in stores. As the 2000s began, many states began to include other presidents into Presidents’ Day in order to celebrate the actions of all past U.S. presidents, not just Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. This did receive some backlash as some said that including other, lesser known presidents would devalue the actions of more important presidents.

Presidents’ Day is now used to help teach people about the accomplishments of U.S. presidents and is also a public holiday in some states. There are four presidents who were born in February: George Washington (February 22, 1732), William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773), Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809) and Ronald Reagan (February 6, 1911).

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What is Presidents’ Day?