Why Do We Celebrate Presidents Day

why do we celebrate presidents day
why do we celebrate presidents day

Presidents’ Day is a holiday that holds great significance in the United States. But have you ever wondered why we celebrate it? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history behind Presidents’ Day and explore the reasons why it is commemorated across the nation.

Washington’s Birthday

The origins of Presidents’ Day can be traced back to 1800, following the death of George Washington, one of America’s most revered figures. Washington’s birthday, which falls on February 22, became a day of remembrance for the nation.

Throughout the 1800s, events like the centennial celebration of Washington’s birth in 1832 and the construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were cause for nationwide celebration. Washington’s Birthday, initially an unofficial observance, gained official recognition as a federal holiday in the late 1870s.

Uniform Monday Holiday Act

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day began in the late 1960s with the introduction of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This act sought to create more three-day weekends for workers by moving the celebration of certain federal holidays to predetermined Mondays.

The bill garnered support from both the private sector and labor unions, as it was believed to reduce absenteeism and boost retail sales. As part of this act, the celebration of Washington’s birthday was combined with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12.

While the proposal to rename the holiday Presidents’ Day faced some opposition from lawmakers in Washington’s home state of Virginia, the main provisions of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act were passed in 1968. The act took effect in 1971, shifting Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday of February.

What Presidents Do We Celebrate on Presidents’ Day?

Although Richard Nixon’s executive order referred to the holiday as Washington’s Birthday, the shift to Presidents’ Day soon gained momentum. By the mid-1980s, Americans began referring to the holiday as Presidents’ Day. In fact, many states changed the holiday’s name to Presidents’ Day on their calendars.

While George Washington and Abraham Lincoln remain the most recognized leaders celebrated on this day, Presidents’ Day is now seen as an occasion to honor the lives and achievements of all American presidents. Some states have even added additional figures to their celebrations, such as civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates in Arkansas and Thomas Jefferson in Alabama.

What Is Closed on Presidents’ Day?

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday, and as such, many banks and schools are closed in observance of this day. Additionally, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ do not engage in trading, and the post office remains closed. Non-essential federal workers also have the day off.

Presidents’ Day Celebrations and Traditions

Similar to Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance. In its original form as Washington’s Birthday, the holiday gained special significance during the Great Depression. Portraits of George Washington often graced newspaper headlines and magazines every February 22.

In 1932, the date was used to reinstate the Purple Heart, a military decoration originally created by George Washington. Patriotic groups and the Boy Scouts of America also held celebrations, and thousands of people attended mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in honor of Washington.

Today, many patriotic and historical groups use Presidents’ Day as an opportunity to organize celebrations, reenactments, and other events. Several states require public schools to teach students about the accomplishments of the presidents leading up to Presidents’ Day.

FAQs

Q: Does Presidents’ Day fall on the actual birthday of any American president?
A: No, Presidents’ Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president. While four chief executives, George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan, were born in February, their birthdays do not coincide with Presidents’ Day.

Conclusion

Presidents’ Day has evolved from a remembrance of George Washington’s birthday to a day that honors all American presidents. This holiday, established through the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, provides a time for reflection, celebration, and appreciation of the leaders who have shaped the United States. So, on Presidents’ Day, take a moment to reflect on the contributions of our nation’s presidents and celebrate the democratic values they have championed.

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