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President's Day – Feb. 20

What exactly are we celebrating?

Published Feb. 20, 2012 @ 6 a.m.

The evolution of today's holiday causes some confusion about what is being celebrated.  Our first president's birthday? Two of our most popular presidents? All of our presidents? 

Actually, today’s federal holiday, President's Day, evolved as a combination of honoring the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.   For many years, both days (Feb. 22 and Feb. 12) were considered holidays and prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn't seem to be a problem.    

In 1968, Congress voted to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays.  The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington's Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February.  Some consider “President’s Day” a dual celebration to honor Washington and Lincoln while others interpret it to be a day to honor the Presidency of the United States.  Other holidays affected by the "Monday holiday" law: Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. The law also created one new Monday holiday — Columbus Day on the second Monday in October. 

If you consider this holiday a celebration of presidential birthdays, you might find it interesting that four presidents had February birthdays:  Ronald Reagan, Feb. 6; William Henry Harrison, Feb. 9; Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 12; George Washington, Feb. 22.

For those who have today off from work, the "why" of the holiday may be less important than having a three-day weekend.  Enjoy!   

 


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