Is President’s Day for us or for the U.S.?: The history of celebrating President’s Day

Poll created by Chelsea Simens on Feb 19, 2019

Though still referred to as “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government, President’s day has become a day to recognize all presidents and celebrate a national day off (with shopping). Americans have long celebrated the birth of our first president with the birth of our country; balls were held, banquets feasted at an eventually retail was optimized with a day off. How did we go from honoring George Washington and our country to honoring ourselves with a day off?

 

Paradoxical history of Presidents Day as a holiday (Whitehouse.gov)
February 22, the date of Washington’s birth in 1732, became a federal holiday in 1879. Today, we celebrate Washington’s Birthday on the third Monday of February each year—the result of the 1968 law mandating that a number of federal holidays occur on Mondays.

Incidentally, the third Monday in February can never fall on the 22nd, meaning the federal holiday will never land on Washington’s actual birth date.”

A move to Mondays (history.com)

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents Day began in the late 1960s, when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Championed by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law sought to shift the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays.

The proposed change was seen by many as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, and it was believed that ensuring holidays always fell on the same weekday would reduce employee absenteeism. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill also had widespread support from both the private sector and labor unions and was seen as a surefire way to bolster retail sales.”

All about branding: Deals, deals, deals (history.com)

“The move away from February 22 led many to believe that the new date was intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, as it now fell between their two birthdays. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.”

Is it a holiday if everyone works? (Time.com)

“Yesware, an email analytics firm, crunched the numbers on 23 million emails circulating through corporate inboxes over the course of one year. Their finding: Open and reply rates on Presidents Day exceeded other federal holidays, and even a typical workday.

This is partly a function of workers receiving fewer emails overall, making a quick scan through the inbox a bit easier. It also suggests that when it comes to federal holidays, Presidents Day is the least sacrosanct.”

Why are we still celebrating? (Whitehouse.gov)

“By taking the time to remember and celebrate George Washington’s life each February, all Americans have the opportunity to be grateful for the sacred Founding of this country and the values for which it stands. When Washington resigned from the presidency after two terms, he set a precedent for the peaceful transfer of power that continues to stand out as a moral example to the free world.”

Do you think it’s necessary to celebrate President’s Day?

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  • No, that’s why we have monuments and museums
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  • Yes, we need a day off to recognize all that they did
    1
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