The History of President’s Day

Feb 17
President WashingtonThe banks, schools and the Post Office are all closed today. The reason is to celebrate President’s Day. So today is an excellent time to take a closer look at the history of this special day. Did You Know? The year is 1800 and this is when the story of President’s Day began. Our nation’s first President George Washington died in 1799. As a grateful nation mourned his death, the idea of a day of remembrance took root and on February 22, 1800 our nation celebrated the first President’s Day. However, during this time the country referred to this day as Washington’s Birthday. As the years passed, America continued to show honor to Washington. In 1848, our country broke ground and began the construction of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. It wasn’t until 1885 that is special day became recognized as a national holiday. This brought the total of national holidays to five and they included Independence Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Day and now Washington’s Birthday. This was the first national holiday to celebrate the life of an individual American. Combining Two Days of Remembrance into One As the nation grew and additional national holidays were introduced the leaders in Washington decided to approve the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in the 1960’s. This law shifted the celebration of several different national holidays to a predetermined Monday schedule. The idea of this act began with Senator Robert McClory of Illinois. Another great President also had a following celebrating his birthday. That was no other than President Abraham Lincoln. However, Lincoln’s birthday, believed to be on February 12 was celebrated in several states including his home state of Illinois. By combining Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthday into one Monday holiday the new day would give equal recognition to two famous American’s. However, due to disagreement among lawmakers of the day, the idea of combining them into a single holiday was dropped. But within a short time period after the initial defeat, President Nixon enacted the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This shifted several national holidays including Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day to predetermined holidays. Now with the law fully enacted, the official day for Washington’s Birthday was moved to the third Monday of February. Since the new day of remembrance now fell between Washington’s, birthday February 22, and Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, many believed it was created to honor both men. It was during this time that marketers began calling this three-day weekend President’s Day. It allowed them to offer “President’s Day” sales and bargains. In the early 2000’s, approximately half of the 50 states changed the name from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day on their official calendars. Today, President’s Day is now seen as a day to celebrate all American President’s. But the two pillars of legacy recognition for this special day are still Washington and Lincoln.

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