A year after General George Washington, the first President of the United States, died in 1799, his February 22nd birthday became a day of remembrance and celebration. Following suit, in 1832, the centennial of his birth was celebrated nationwide. Then, in 1848, the Washington Memorial began construction. In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, declared Washington’s birthday a national holiday, joining Christmas, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s as official bank holidays. He remained the only American honored with his own holiday until 1983 when Ronald Reagan signed the bill making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a national holiday as well. Take a look as we learn more about Washington and how we celebrate him and other Presidents with 3-day weekend.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act (TOMHA)
Washington’s birthday stayed a singular day of remembrance for nearly a hundred years until the 1960’s when some senators began playing with the idea of changing federal holidays to fall on predetermined days of the year. Though many were upset due to a ‘cheapening of the meaning’ of the celebrations, the U.S. Senate passed the measure in 1968 for the best of American reasons: to bolster retail sales. In 1971, the bill was implemented and so the three-day weekend gave birth to blowouts. Thanks Business Insider for your insight on sales this weekend.
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When the holiday was fixed to the third Monday of February, many took it as a move to include Abraham Lincoln as his birthday was the 12th of the month. Thus the phrase ‘Presidents Day’ was brought into play.
There has never been an official declaration changing Washington’s birthday to Presidents Day, but by the mid-1980’s it had gained enough traction that most people in the United States believed the day was meant to honor all former Presidents.
By the mid 2000’s about half the states named the holiday Presidents Day on their official calendars and began lumping their own favorite sons into the mix. Some lawmakers took measures to put an end to the confusion citing that holding up some of the nation’s lesser chiefs of staff tarnishes the Washington name. The federal government has never wavered on the initial intent of the holiday and it remains Washington’s birthday on federal calendars.
Celebrating President’s/Presidents’/Presidents Day
As Americans all over the country spend their three days binge watching the Screaming Ladies on Netflix and impulse shopping online for HUGE HUGE HUGE SAVINGS!!!!! There are more or less official celebrations of the day happening across the nation. For example, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral holds a special mass that up to 50,000 people have attended in the past. Purple heart holders, a medal Washington began awarding during the revolution, are celebrated in military circles. Boy and girl scout troops hold special celebratory meetings.
For now, get out there, enjoy finishing out your three-day weekend, and make sure to think about Washingnton. Happy President’s Day, everyone!