Presidents’ Day (February 21): Celebrations, History, Meaning and Quotes
Presidents’ Day is observed annually on the third Monday in February. In 2022, Presidents’ Day will be celebrated on Monday, February 21.
Presidents’ Day Dates
Monday, February 21
Monday, February 20
Monday, February 19
Monday, February 17
In most US states, Presidents’ Day is observed as a public holiday. Nevertheless, on Washington’s Birthday, a lot of establishments are open as usual, and a lot of stores have sales. With the exception of the Post Office, many delivery services are available on a regular basis, and most public transportation systems run on set schedules. For a mid-winter break, some schools close for the entire week.
Some official sources state that Indiana celebrates the Washington birthday in December.
In its original form, the holiday was observed on George Washington’s birthday in 1796, the final year of his administration. Based on the calendar that has been in use since the middle of the 18th century, Washington was born on February 22, 1732. That being said, his birthday was February 11th based on the antiquated calendar that was in use at the time. While some Americans observed his birthday on the 22nd of July, 1796, others chose to celebrate it on the 11th.
The American experience had solidified Washington’s Birthday as a legitimate national holiday by the early 19th century. Birthnight Balls in different parts of the country, speeches and receptions by well-known public figures, and a great deal of partying in taverns across the nation were among its customs.
Washington’s original birthday was first recognized as a national holiday in 1885 by President Chester Alan Arthur.
Then came Abraham Lincoln, a highly regarded president who was also born in February on the 12th of the month. The first official celebration of his birthday was held in 1865, the year following his murder, when members of Congress assembled for a memorial speech. Lincoln’s birthday became a legal holiday in a number of states, but it did not become a federal holiday like George Washington’s.
A law (HR 15951) affecting multiple federal holidays was passed in 1968. Among them was Washington’s Birthday, whose commemoration was moved to the third Monday of February every year, regardless of whether it fell on the 22nd. This act, which went into effect in 1971, was intended to give federal employees some standard three-day weekends while also streamlining the annual calendar of holidays.
To commemorate the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, an early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act proposed renaming the federal holiday as “Presidents’ Day”. The bill was voted on and signed into law on June 28, 1968, with the name “Washington’s Birthday” retained after this proposal was rejected in committee.
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February 11, 1731 or February 22, 1732?
Should one travel back in time and inquire of a youthful George Washington, he would respond that it was February 11, 1731. It is February 22, 1732, which we commemorate as his birthday, nearly 300 years later. Why were the dates changed?
The Julian calendar, which had different dates than the more widely used Gregorian calendar, was in use in Great Britain and its colonies when George Washington was born. There was some confusion when Great Britain decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1751. In order for Britain to catch up with the rest of Europe, two significant adjustments had to be made:
*The Julian calendar started each year on March 25, which was the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ. Under the Gregorian Calendar, New Year’s Day would now be celebrated on January 1st.
*The other change required dropping eleven days from the middle of September in 1752.
Take a close look at the Poor Richard’s Almanac image above. This is September 1752’s page. It will say, “SEPTEMBER hath XIX Days,” which means that September has 19 days. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the calendar is flipped from September 2 to September 14. After removing the dates of September 3–13, 1752, people went to bed on September 2, 1752, and woke up on September 14, 1752. The majority of birthdates were shifted by eleven days as a result of this one-time calendar change.
Many observed Washington’s birthday celebrations while he was still living, in recognition of his service to the nation and the great regard he enjoyed from his fellow citizens. Even so, some decided to celebrate on the eleventh, while others decided to wait until the 22nd.
Up until 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a single holiday known as Presidents’ Day to be observed on the third Monday in February in honor of all former presidents. February 22 had been observed as a federal public holiday.
Presidents’ Day was never officially renamed as a result of the legal mechanism employed by President Nixon; instead, the day is still appropriately referred to as George Washington’s Birthday in all official Federal Government publications and calendars.
It is ironic that the 22nd can never fall on a Monday in February.
At Valley Forge, the first public commemoration of George Washington’s birthday was held in 1778, right in the middle of the American Revolution. General Washington was serenaded in his quarters by a group of drummers and fifers.
The French in Newport, Rhode Island, honored Washington with a parade in 1781. To avoid having the celebration on a Sunday, the French chose to celebrate it on Monday, February 23rd. “The flattering distinction paid to the anniversary of my birthday is an honor for which I dare not attempt to express my gratitude,” Washington wrote to Count Rochambeau. I trust your sensibilities to understand how I feel about this and the gracious way you are happy to make the announcement.”
The Birthnight Ball tradition began in Britain as a way to remember and honor the king’s birthday. After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Americans carried on with this custom. In the absence of a king, Americans looked to George Washington as their next closest relative.
In Williamsburg in 1779, the first Washington Birthnight Ball was officially documented.
Newspapers said that on February 11, 1780, a ball was held in Alexandria to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.
The Times and Alexandria Advertiser of February 7, 1787, invited all “Ladies of Alexandria and its vicinity” to Gadsby’s Tavern and told gentlemen where to buy tickets for the three-day Washington’s Birthnight Ball.
Ten months before Washington passed away, in February 1799, the final Birthnight Ball was held. How many Birthnight Balls he attended is unknown.
George Washington, the nation’s first president, is formally honored on Washington’s Birthday for his life and contributions. On this day, former US presidents are honored. Presidents’ Day is another name for Washington’s birthday. This is due to the fact that some states formally observe Presidents’ Day, even though the majority of states have adopted Washington’s Birthday.
Given that Abraham Lincoln’s birthday fell in the middle of February, some states give him extra attention. Schools frequently plan activities and teachings for students about US presidents, and George Washington in particular, in the weeks or days preceding the holiday. It’s a common day for retailers to launch their sales.
1.“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”- Abraham Lincoln
2.“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” – George Washington
3.“I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.” – Woodrow Wilson
4.“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson
5.“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison
6.“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
7.“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman
8.“Posterity — you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” – John Quincy Adams
9.“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.” – John F. Kennedy
• The first American president to be born a citizen was Martin Van Buren. The presidents who came before him were British subjects by birth.
• February is the birth month of four presidents: William Harrison, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.
• At 6 feet 4 inches (193 centimeters), Abraham Lincoln was the tallest U.S. President, while James Madison was the shortest, standing at 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters).
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