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What Is President’s Day?

Today marks the annual holiday known as President’s Day. However, many people don’t know exactly what the holiday represents and entails, or even where it originated from. So sit back like you’re in grade school again and read about one of the many holidays that are so important you don’t even get mail because of.

President’s Day was originally named solely for the nation’s first President, George Washington, who was born on February 22, 1732. The holiday always takes place on the third Monday in February, as it is the day that is closest to Washington’s birthday. However, up until 1971, it was always celebrated on February 22, until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed into congress. This caused a minor fluke, because it was no longer technically “Washington’s birthday,” as since 1971, the holiday always falls between the 15th and 21st.

Then, low and behold, many decades and 15 presidents later came Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the second best, and most renowned president of the United States. He was born just ten days before Washington, on February 12, 18o9. His great efforts as president made him just as deserving as Washington of a special day. Prior to the Holiday Act, Lincoln was always celebrated on his day of birth. When the Act was passed, however, controversies were brought to the surface.

The single holiday observance meant that the traditional 10-day separation between Washington’s Birthday (February 22) and Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12) had essentially been eliminated. However, while Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Even though most states with individual holidays honoring Washington and Lincoln shifted their state recognition date of Washington’s Birthday to correspond to the third Monday in February, some states, including  California, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas and others, chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.”

This seemed to solve the issue, and to this day the holiday has always taken place on the third Monday, and the term ”President’s Day” took hold and is still grabbing on. However, in some parts of the country, certain groups still recognize Washington and Lincoln separately.

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images

In Westmoreland County, Virginia, the George Washington Birthplace National Monument celebrates the first U.S. president every year on his birthday, as well as on President’s Day. Special colonial events and activities take place throughout the entire day. Mount Vernon also celebrates his birthday the weekend before and on President’s Day, which is known as an annual free day. This usually lures between 10,000 and 18,000 visitors on the Monday alone.

For Lincoln, annual activities include: a February 12th wreath-lying ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images

 Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky; Lincoln Day, which is celebrated at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana on the Sunday nearest to his birthday, in which a special ceremony takes place at Abraham Lincoln Hall, which is followed by a similar wreath-lying ceremony at Lincoln’s mother’s grave site. Special birthday programs at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois also take place each year.

Some people believe that other past presidents deserve to be honored as well, so for those individuals, other events take place.

Other events, such as closings and sales also take place today. For events happening near you, go to your town’s website for all the information.

So now that you know where President’s Day originated from and what it stands for, what will you do today to commemorate the men who made our country what it is today? You wouldn’t be who you are or have all the rights and freedom that you have if it weren’t for our past presidents, so find some way to thank and honor them today.

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