President's Day: What Is the Real Point of This Holiday?

By Lawrence Lease on February 9, 2018

We were always taught that President’s Day was all about Presidents. Or was it birthdays? Well, it is actually about both. Let’s dive into the nation’s history and finally discover the real meaning of President’s Day.

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President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday of February. This day was originally established to celebrate the birthday of America’s first President, George Washington. Washington was born in Virginia on February 22, 1732. The holiday was originally established in 1855 and continues on today. The country also celebrates the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born in Kentucky on February 12, 1809.

Who is George Washington?

George Washington played a key role in a battle that launched the French and Indian War. That event caused a massive debt for the British monarchy, which in turn caused them to impose taxation without representation. This policy is was sparked the American Revolution. George Washington then became the leader of the Continental Army against the British forces. Through strategy and logistical actions, Washington tired the best military in the known world at the time and earned America’s independence. In a blink of an eye, he retired and returned home to Mt. Vernon.

Sometime later, America called him back to service and so he presided over the Constitutional Convention. His wisdom was influential in the ratification of the Constitution. Though Washington wanted to leave, he was elected president twice. Washington created many of the national traditions and policies that impact our lives today. He forwent the lifestyle of royalty, and after his second term, he retired.

How did it become a national holiday?

As time went on, the date was changed in order to have it fall on Mondays, creating more three-day weekends. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was enacted in 1971. The bill was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and states that three national holidays will be celebrated on a Monday: Washington’s Birthday in February, Memorial Day in May and Veterans Day in October. While Congress had created this uniform federal holiday law, there was not an agreement among the states. Some states renamed their holiday “President’s Day.”

The bill further established Columbus Day as a federal holiday, which is also celebrated on a Monday. This bill also ensures a minimum of five recurring three-day weekends every year for federal employees. The reasoning explained by the bill is that it will allow families who live apart more time together to see more of the beautiful country.

Most recently in 1999, Congress attempted to officially call the holiday “Washington’s Birthday”; unfortunately both bills failed to move pass committees.

Did You Know?

  • President’s Day does not fall on the actual birthday of any U.S. president.
  • Presidents George Washington, William Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were all born in February, but are too early or too late to coordinate with President’s Day
  • President’s Day is a day to celebrate all of the country’s presidents, past and present.
  • Several national parks stage pageants in honor of Washington and Lincoln.

Celebrations take place all over the country. If you are on the East Coast, you may want to travel to places like the City Tavern, National Constitution Center or even Valley Forge, where you can celebrate Pres. George Washington’s birthday. They even have a cupcake-filled party for George Washington’s birthday at the visitor center.

The National Mall has events all day highlighting the Presidents on Presidents Day. If you can’t make it out to a celebration on President’s Day, be sure to visit Mt. Vernon and learn all you can about America’s first president. And depending on where you live, you may be close to a presidential library.

Back in the day, George Washington’s accomplishments were recognized. Now it’s a miracle if we learn about them in school. What was once a day to honor and remember our presidents, even the ones you might not like or agree with, has become cheapened by money and three-day weekends. People are forgetting the real impact Presidents have on our lives as a country. Love them or hate them, every president is trying to make the country a better place for future generations of Americans.

Born and raised in Wasilla, Alaska. I am citizen journalist and looking to find a official paying journalism job somewhere in the country. I enjoy watching TV, reading books and traveling.

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