Did you know that this holiday was established originally in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States? In fact, it legally still is a celebration of his birthday which is February 22. In practice, we’ve taken to celebrating all US presidents on this day. In 2011, Presidents Day falls on February 21.
The holiday was originally created in 1885 by a bill signed by President Chester Arthur, which declared that February 22nd, Washington’s Birthday, would be a federal holiday. However, like most things to do with Washington, things were not so simple. Washington’s Birthday was actually on February 11th, but that was according to the Julian calendar. However, Britain eventually shifted to the Gregorian calendar, which moved everything ahead 11 days. Eventually, Abraham Lincoln was elected president and proved to be a president as great and served as much of a catalyst to the nation as Washington did. His birthday was February 12th, and many states started to observe that date as a holiday.
Many years later, in 1968, members of Congress decided that it would be easier to celebrate the holidays if they were on Monday so that workers would have a three day weekend instead of having a broken week in the middle of the week. This bill moved all holidays to Monday, so President’s Day is on the third Monday in February. This national holiday is often called “President’s Day,” in honor of both Washington and Lincoln, but the official name remains “Washington’s Birthday.”
In order to make the single national holiday more inclusive of both Presidents, Congress considered a bill to rename it as President’s Day. Congress rejected the bill. Some in Congress would like to make the national holiday more inclusive of not only Lincoln, but all Presidents who served our country. But when it comes down to it, the original purpose of the holiday was to recognize the first significant and great President who had one of the largest roles in founding this nation and creating the Constitution that we hold so dear. Washington deserves to be recognized as the greatest leader the United States have ever had.
So, happy President’s day to everyone!