National Holiday: Honor Washington on Presidents’ Day

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21: Most Americans call today Presidents Day—but did you know this national holiday was originally in honor of George Washington? In fact, in federal law, it’s still called Washington’s Birthday.

In 1880, Congress declared the holiday “Washington’s Birthday”—the first holiday in honor of an American citizen. After the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971 was established, the day was moved to the third Monday in February—Washington was born Feb. 22, 1732—and has since come to encompass Washington’s birthday, the general office of presidency, and Lincoln’s birth anniversary, which was on Feb. 12. (Wikipedia has details.) Now that’s plenty of reasons to celebrate!

The name Presidents’ Day, or sometimes President’s Day, was proposed in Congress, but never approved. Presidents’ Day was firmly established by businesses and popular culture. Now, consumers find advertisements galore for Presidents’ Day sales. (Hey, kids—try some Presidents’ Day quizzes and crafts, courtesy of Kaboose.) Other institutions close in veneration of our first president, including many schools—in fact, today is the beginning of mid-winter recess in many districts.

Preisdents’ Day is one of the most observed holidays in the U.S., thanks to sales and school vacations. According to an article from Fox News, apps for handheld devices have recently been developed for Presidents Day week, so the hoards of families heading to Disney World and Universal Studios can better predict ride and restaurant wait times.

For those wanting to pay homage to Washington today, remember all the things he was: the unanimous choice for first president; an example of leadership for the office of presidency; and the general who created the first military badge of merit. Just don’t expect to hear anyone talking about Washington’s religious beliefs; our first president kept mum about his faith! Other than expressing humility toward God, Washington’s specific beliefs have been debated by historians for centuries. ( just published a 5-part series on the religious beliefs of Washington and other founding fathers.)

Will you be near Mount Vernon today? Join one of the tens of thousands of visitors who will visit this national monument for free today, and hear Miss America 2010 sing the national anthem—or join in a surprise birthday party that mimics an actual party Washington received in 1778! (Visit Several other communities pay tribute to Washington, too: Virginia hosts a month-long tribute and a George Washington Birthday parade, and Florida hosts an annual George Fest. Even the US Senate makes recognition by reading Washington’s Farewell Address on his birthday.

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