Presidents’ Day, the third Monday in February, is a federal holiday in the United States. We all know it to be a day of commemorating the past iconic presidents of the country. However, this holiday isn’t just a general remembrance of American presidents; it is a national celebration to honor some memorable events in the United States. This article is dedicated to the meanings tied to the federal holiday.
George Washington: The predecessor of all presidents
George Washington, the first president of America, was born on February 22, 1732, in colonial Virginia. In 1775, he was selected as commander of the Continental Army, which he led to victory, making the British Army surrender at Virginia in 1781.
Washington returned to his private life at Mount Vernon despite different offers of political power. He was unanimously chosen as the first U.S. President. To honor him, Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday every February 22– before it was renamed to honor other American presidents.
Abraham Lincoln: A destroyer of slavery
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He was the 16th President of the United States; he is respected for guiding Americans through the crisis of the American Civil War (from 1861 to 1865).
He was an exceptional leader who believed in a constitutional amendment to end slavery in America. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, totally outlawed slavery. Presidents’ Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February, also to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday.
An Honor for the Presidents
Although many states celebrate Presidents’ Day, some call it ‘Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday.’ However, the bottom line remains that the holiday’s main purpose is to celebrate Washington’s birthday.
The federal holiday is also a day to honor other notable presidents like Theodore Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson. Stone carvings of these presidents are on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Another Reason for the Commemoration
Presidents’ Day isn’t all about Washington and other iconic presidents of the United States; it’s also a holiday for America to honor its veterans. Presidents’ Day is also a day to pay tribute to the general who made the first military badge for the common soldier.
The badge of merit, the Purple Heart, is an honorary badge that bears the image of George Washington. The badge was revived in 1932 (on Washington’s 200th birthday) to honor soldiers injured in battle. So, the holiday is also a tribute to the creator and receivers of the badge.
Celebrating Presidents’ Day: Brief highlights
Presidents’ Day wasn’t always celebrated on Mondays; in the 1880s, Washington’s birthday was celebrated on his actual birthday. However, in 1968, Congress passed a bill to ‘shift’ many federal holidays to Mondays to give workers some long weekends throughout the year.
While the bill was being debated, it was also proposed that the holiday be made to ‘accommodate’ Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Today, the holiday is often celebrated with public ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and across the U.S.