Very few of us will pass up a day off of work no matter what is being celebrated. If you are lucky to be working for the federal government, you get President’s Day off. But how much do you really know about this day?
The official name of this day is not President’s Day or Presidents Day. It is simply Washington’s Birthday. This day was originally celebrated on President George Washington’s birthday which was February 22nd. This began during Washington’s term and continued long after. Washington was a hero in the country’s eyes. It was under his leadership that the ill equipped and untrained frontiersmen actually beat one of the most powerful militaries in the world. Washington brought the mixed up bunch of men and created an army of heart and determination that won out. He taught subsequent military leaders that retreat can be the most powerful weapon. He looked out for the good of his men and brought the same character traits to the office of President. He was creating something out of nothing. No wonder he was honored by his countrymen and his birthday celebrated.
As the years went by, another president had a birthday that fell in the same month. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th. After his assassination, many areas began to celebrate his birthday on the same day as Washington. It slowly became known as President’s Day.
This was not an official holiday in any way until 1880 when it was an official holiday in the District of Columbia only. Just five years later in 1885, it became an official federal holiday in which all federal buildings were to observe.
Several times over the years, a movement would rise up to have the name of the holiday officially changed to President’s Day. In 1976 a motion was made for the name change and to have the actual observance date changed from February 22nd to the third Monday in February. The date change carried through and was enacted. The name change was voted down. Due to creative advertising campaigns in the following years, most people now recognize the day only as President’s Day.
Officially, the federal government is only celebrating Washington’s birthday. Overall, the nation celebrates all presidents. Some states go as far as to not only celebrate Washington’s birthday, but also the presidents that hail from their state. Flags are waved, sales are promoted. Many communities also gather for historic readings on their community and the presidents that influenced them. In the end it is a day to honor the men who have stepped forward to lead a young nation through its growing years and especially to honor the one man who humbly accepted the position of being the first president and helped start a new country that would forever influence the world.