Presidents Day – History and Meaning
The history of this holiday goes back to the first US President George Washington, who was born on February 22 1732. Even during his lifetime, this American leader enjoyed almost religious veneration. Thus, it came as no surprise when his birthday was declared a federal holiday in the year 1879, making George Washington the first historical person with his own day of remembrance.
It should, however, take almost 100 years until this event turned into Presidents Day as we know it today. The date, in particular, was a matter of debate: On February 12, another famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, was born, and there were initiatives to combine both birthdays to one holiday.
This happened through the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday. Under Richard Nixon, Washington’s Birthday was renamed Presidents Day – a reminder that not only Washington and Lincoln, but all US Presidents were to be honored on this day. The name soon caught on, especially when business owners started using it to advertise their special sales and offers.
However, not all Americans were happy about the “new” Presidents Day. Some did not like the idea of honoring larger-than-life figures like Washington and Lincoln alongside less popular presidents. At the moment, though, there are no plans in the USA to change this holiday.