The History of Presidents’ Day

Happy Presidents’ Day! The history of Presidents’ Day is a bit complicated. Although the federal holiday celebrates all the U.S. presidents, it was originally a celebration of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are in February (Feb 22nd and Feb 12th, respectively).

Britannica.com tells us that the origins of President’s Day occurred sometime in the 1880s when Washington’s birthday was first celebrated as a holiday. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays. This allowed workers to have long weekends. Until 1968, Washington’s Birthday had always been celebrated on February 22.

During debate on the bill, it was proposed that Washington’s Birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honor the birthdays of both Washington (February 22) and Lincoln (February 12). Although Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states, it was never an official federal holiday. Following much discussion, Congress rejected the name change. After the bill went into effect in 1971, however, Presidents’ Day became the commonly accepted name, due in part to retailers’ use of that name to promote sales and the holiday’s proximity to Lincoln’s birthday. Presidents’ Day is usually marked by public ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.

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