February 16, 2013

Presidents' Day

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. He served in the French and Indian War, was a member of the Second Continental Congress and a general in the American Revolution, and went on to become the first president of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797. He is remembered as a Founding Father and one of the best known politicians in American history. The United States capital is named for him, and his image is used on the dollar bill and the quarter dollar coin. His birthday is celebrated on the third Monday in February every year.

Washington's birthday was unofficially observed for most of the 1800s, and it was first celebrated as an official holiday in Washington D.C. in 1880. However, the holiday only applied to the District of Columbia. Five years later, President Chester A. Arthur signed a bill establishing Washington's Birthday as a federal holiday. Lincoln's birthday, February 12 (he was born the same day as Darwin!), was also celebrated in many states beginning in the late 1800s. In the early 1950s, the National Association of Travel Organizations suggested that Washington and Lincoln's birthdays be combined to a single "Presidents' Day" celebrated on the third Monday of February, and that several other federal holidays be moved to designated Mondays rather than fixed dates. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill passed. This bill allowed Americans more three-day weekends. Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day were moved to designated Mondays, and Columbus Day, also a designated Monday, was established. (Veterans Day was moved back to a fixed date, November 11, several years later.) However, Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's birthday were not combined into Presidents' Day.

The third Monday in February is known as Washington's Birthday at the federal level. However, most states recognize it as Presidents' Day. Not all states celebrate Presidents' Day on the same day as the federal holiday. Some states still celebrate Lincoln's birthday separately, some only celebrate Washington's birthday, some combine them into a single Presidents' Day, and some celebrate neither. Some states even celebrate Presidents' Day during a different month.

Since Washington's Birthday is a federal holiday, federal offices are closed on the third Monday in February and mail is not delivered. Some schools and stores are closed. Other stores feature Presidents' Day sales. A list of Presidents' Day sales can be found at dealspl.us. Some communities stage reenactments of Washington and Lincoln. According to the Huffington Post, many babies born on Presidents' Day are named for presidents. Presidents' Day is one of two days on which the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress is open to the public.

Birthday shoutouts to Zoe, Aaron, Kaylee, and Ian

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I wonder how many people take advantage of Presidents' Day to visit that Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress?