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Today is the third Monday in February, which has been designated as Presidents’ Day. Originally Washington’s Birthday, this holiday was created in honor of George Washington and was celebrated on his birthday, February 22nd. However, it became later known as Presidents’ Day after the date was moved as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971.
This legislation permanently moved three federal holidays to Mondays, up from six, in an attempt to create more three-day weekends for US workers. Labor Day, Patriots’ Day and Martin Luther King Day are always celebrated on Mondays.
While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.
Presidents’ Day originated in 1880 to commemorate the birthday of George Washington, commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the first president of the United States.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved the holiday to the third Monday in February. During the debate for the bill, it was proposed that Washington’s birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honor the birthdays of Washington (February 22) and Lincoln (February 12). Although Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states at the time, it was never an official federal holiday.
After much discussion, Congress rejected the name change. After the bill went into effect in 1971, however, Presidents’ Day was eventually accepted, the popularity due to the massive use of the name by commerce to promote sales.
Today, the holiday is statewide, but official names vary, including Washington’s Birthday, Presidents’ Day, President’s Day, Presidents Day, and Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday. There are 15 different names used across the country. Depending on local law, the holiday may officially celebrate only Washington, Washington and Lincoln, or some other combination of US presidents such as Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The two presidents most commonly honored during President’s Day are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
George Washington was a Virginia farmer who served as a general and commander-in-chief of colonial armies during the American Revolutionary War, later becoming the 1st President of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and is considered one of America’s greatest heroes due to his role as “Savior of the Union” and emancipator of the enslaved. His rise from humble beginnings to the highest office in the country is a remarkable story. Lincoln was assassinated during his term as president, by a stage actor while watching the play in Washington, D.C.
The state of Massachusetts officially celebrates “Washington’s Birthday,” the birthday of George Washington, on the same day as the federal holiday of Presidents’ Day.
State law directs the governor to issue an annual Presidents’ Day proclamation on May 29, which is John F. Kennedy’s birthday, and honors presidents with Massachusetts roots: John Kennedy, John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge.
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