16 February 2009

Culture Spot: Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day)

Washington's Birthday billet header

Today, the third Monday of February is a federal holiday in the United States. Traditionally known as Washington’s Birthday, there was a movement in the 1980s to change the name to Presidents’ Day. The holiday was established in 1880 and celebrated on the actual date of the first president’s day of birth: 22 February. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, signed into law in 1968, went into effect moving several federal holidays to Mondays in order to create 3-day weekends for federal employees. A movement in the 1980s began to push a name change to Presidents’ Day in order to honor another great American president who was also born in February, Abraham Lincoln. Several of the States already recognized President Lincoln’s birthday, such his home state of Illinois. Other States such as Massachusetts had already changed the name of Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day in order to honor all US presidents from that state: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy. In Virginia, this day is legally recognized as “George Washington Day.”

Even though the official name of this holiday is still “Washington’s Birthday,” it has commonly been called by many Americans as Presidents’ Day. Many schools around the country use the days preceding this holiday to educate students about all US presidents with emphasize on Washington and Lincoln.

To learn more about this US federal holiday, read the Wikipedia article Washington’s Birthday.

See also, Presidents’ Day or Washington’s Birthday?

Celebrate! Holidays in the USA (from the US embassy site in Sweden): George Washington’s Birthday

George Washington’s Birthday from the National Archives

Biography of George Washington at the White House website

George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens

Below is a video from the recent television miniseries, ‘John Adams,’ with an accurate representation of George Washington taking the oath of office as the first US President!

Also check out the History Channel’s videoSearching for George Washington.

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