Every year the third Monday of February is celebrated as President’s Day. The federal holiday 2021 will be marked on February 15, Monday. It was in the year 1885 when this holiday was established in recognition of the president of the United States, George Washington. After this holiday was shifted to the United Monday Holiday Act of the year 1971 was when it popularly came to be known as the Presidents’ Day. The act was an initiative to give the workers of the nation a three-days off from work. Many states mark their holidays in recognition of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or other prominent figures. Now, Presidents’ Day is celebrated to recognize all the Presidents of the United States be it the past or present.
It was the year 1800 from where the story of Presidents’ Day began. After the death of George Washington in the year 1799, his birthday on February 22 became a day of remembrance. Back then, Washington was known to be a prominent figure of America. The events like the centennial of his birth in the year 1832 and the beginning of construction of the Washington Monument in the year 1848 were the reason behind the national celebration.
For most of the 1800’s years, Washington’s birthday was unofficially regarded as an observance day but in the year 1870, this day became a federal holiday. The first person to propose this measure was from Arkansas, Senator Stephen Wallace Dorsey and it was in the year 1879 when President Rutherford B.Hayes gave his signature for the approval of the law. Initially, the holiday was restricted to the District of Columbia and in the year 1885, it was extended to the entire nation. Washington’s Birthday was paired with the other four federal holidays of the nation namely- Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, and Fourth of July. It was the first federal holiday to mark the life of an individual. In the year 1983, Jr. Day Martin Luther King was the second to sign in the law.
It was in the late years of the 1960s that the carrying of Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day happened after the proposal of Congress which was the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Headed by the Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law was about celebrating multiple federal holidays on previously decided sets of Mondays. The proposal was regarded as a novel measure to give the workers of the nation a three-day weekend. It was done with the belief that if holidays fell on the same day of the week it could reduce employee absenteeism. Some people opposed this with the idea that changing dates from the original one would reduce their value. But, it also had major votes in support from the laborers and private sectors.
The act of Uniform Holiday Monday also had a proposal to pair George Washington’s birthday with that of Abraham Lincoln which was on the 12th of February. In places like Illinois, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was marked as a state holiday and many people came in the support of combining the holidays to mark the two most prominent statesmen of America. McClory was the one who proposed the renaming of the federal holiday to Presidents’ Day. After the important part of the Uniform Holiday Monday Act was passed in the year 1968 by the order of President Richard M.Nixon that it became effective in the year 1971. From February 22, Washington’s birthday was carried to the third Monday of February.
The President’s Day never happens to be on any President’s actual birth date. The four executives, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, William Henry Harrison, and Ronald Reagan have their birthdays in February but they are in early February or late February so the dates never collide.
Many schools and banks remain closed on Presidents’ Day. The NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange remains off for trading on account of Presidents’ Day. The post office remains closed and all the non-necessary federal workers have a day off.
A day of remembrance and patriotic observance is what Presidents’ Day is all about. During the difficult times of the Great Depression, the holiday gained more importance when the pictures of Washington were on every newspaper and magazine every year on February 22. The reinstation of the Purple Heart was done on this date in the year 1932. It was the decoration meant to honor the soldiers who were injured or killed while serving in the armed forces and was created by Washington. The Boy Scouts of America and the Patriotic Groups also celebrated the day. In the year 1938, approximately 5000 people were present in the St. Patrick’s Cathedral mass held in New York City to honor George Washington. Reenactments, staging celebrations, and events happen in the modern-day celebration of Presidents’ Day.
After Nixon’s law, the holiday was called Washington’s Birthday but this was not long before the holiday came to be known as Presidents’ Day. In the middle of the 1980s, Washington’s birthday came to be known as Presidents’ Day to many Americans. The solidification of this shift happened in the early years of the 2000s when more than 50% of the states renamed the holiday to Presidents’ Day. Certain statues were open for the addition of new figures to mark the name change of the holiday. For instance, in Arkansas, both Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates who as a civil rights activist is celebrated, and Alabama on the other hand celebrates Presidents’ Day in recognition of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are the two prominent figures celebrated on Presidents’ Day but currently, it is more of a celebration of the achievements of the executives of America. In the early 2000s, the proposal to restore Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays to their original dates was brought up but then it all failed.
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