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President’s Day: History of the Holiday


President’s day is recognized as one of the federal holidays in the United States and has been in place since 1885. However, the official observation of this day was in 1880 in the District of Columbia. President’s Day was initiated to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, United States’ first President. However, as time passed, consideration was put to consider other influential Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln though the efforts were not so successful. Consequently, the day is celebrated differently by different States since some States that celebrate it have both Washington’s day and the president’s day which they perceive to include the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Nelson 20).

Since the Federal laws allow each State to practice its holidays differently, various States have incorporated the celebration of President’s Day to mean celebrating the US Presidents who have ruled the country. In this essay, I will discuss the origin of this holiday, its history and highlight some of the changes that have been incorporated since its introduction.

The Origin of President’s day

President’s Day is officially referred to as Washington’s Day and is celebrated on the third Monday of February every year, where every Federal office in the United States is required by law to observe this day. The origin of this day can be traced back to the years when George Washington was alive. In the year 1885, President Chester Arthur signed a bill declaring the 22nd of February a Federal holiday to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, US first President. However, as time passed by, Congress saw the need to improve on the celebrations for this holiday. Consequently, in 1968, Congress proposed a bill that intended to change the date of celebrating Washington’s Day to a day where workers could be allowed to enjoy a three-day rest from work while celebrating (Margaret 06).

Therefore, during this holiday, it was proposed that all Federal offices throughout the US would close in observance of this holiday. As a result of the bill, the holiday was shifted from 22nd February to the third Monday of February thereby giving workers three days rest from work that is, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Therefore the bill recognized the third Monday of February as a national day in celebration of both Lincoln and Washington and hence calling it the Presidents Day. However, the official name has still remained Washington’s Day. Therefore, it can be seen that Presidents Day was initially created to celebrate the birthday of the first President of America but adjustments were made to include President Lincoln’s efforts in uniting the Country hence leading to the formation of the President Day in 1968 (Imbornoni, Infoplease).

History of the President’s day

During the last years of President Washington’s reign as the President of America, the country decided to honor him as the first President of the United States by celebrating his birthday. According to the Gregorian calendar, Abraham was born on 22nd February 1732. However, according to the Julian calendar, which was the older version, it placed Washington’s birthday on 11th February 1732. The Americans adopted the new version of the calendar thus placing Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. In early 1800, Washington’s Birthday was established and celebrated though it was not recognized fully as one of the national holidays in America. Individuals began honoring Washington’s birthdays by hosting balls that were attended by prominent people in government and at the local levels; the common man went out to different joints to drink in celebration of this day (Dube, Articlebase).

Abraham Lincoln is also part of the Presidents Day celebration. He was born on the 12th of February according to the Gregorian calendar. Considering his achievements as a President and the date of his birth which almost coincides with Washington’s Birthday, America decided to celebrate his birthday after his death. However, Lincoln’s birthday was not considered a national holiday, unlike Washington’s Birthday which was recognized by Federal law and became an official holiday in 1880. However, different States incorporated Lincoln’s birthday celebration as one of their State’s holidays in order to honor and celebrate the life of Abraham Lincoln despite not being recognized by the Federal laws (Rosinsky 26).

As years passed by, it was seen necessary to honor both Lincoln and Washington due to their great contributions towards the establishment of the United States and maintaining its unity. Consequently, Congress passed a bill recognizing the third Monday of February as a national holiday to honor both Lincoln and Washington. Since then, the day has been popularly known as Presidents Day although the official name has remained to be Washington’s day (Nelson 24). This day is observed by all Americans although the style of celebration may be different from one individual to the other. However, since America is now being headed by the first African American President, I would propose a day to be created to honor the day Obama was sworn in as the first African American U.S President.

Obama’s Day

In my opinion, I would suggest that another day be set aside to celebrate the day President Barrack Obama was sworn in. This was not just a mere Presidential inauguration but a historical transformation of American society. What was earlier on considered impossible became possible with President Obama assuming the highest office in the land. This shows how far the American community has come from since the days of racial discrimination to the modern-day, where one’s leadership capabilities are not judged by the skin color but by the potential one possesses. The voting and acceptance of an African American as the US President indicated how the society has changed, to a society that is now free of racial stereotyping. Of course, African American rights and freedom were recognized in Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation though these rights were not actually practiced in the grassroots. It is only the law that recognized the rights of every American as equal but individuals themselves failed to implement the requirements.

In addition, the white population could accept to be ruled by a black person whom they considered inferior and uncivilized, thus essential positions in government were mainly left to the white Americans. Racial discrimination has persisted even though this has continued to decline as society continues to evolve and adapt to globalization. This has further been proved by the election of Barrack Obama as the U.S President; American society has really changed and recognized the right of each and every person irrespective of their racial background. This day should be therefore be upheld as a national holiday to celebrate the Full Liberalization of American society from the dark days of racial discrimination.


In conclusion, I would suggest that congress adopts a more inclusive Presidents Day to include all America’s President since all of them have helped in one way or the other in maintaining the union of all the States within the United States. This would ensure that the subsequent generation will appreciate the achievements of each and every President the country has ever had. However, to protect the interests of all those who perceive Washington as the founder of independent America and thereby needs to be honored, a day should be set aside to honor both Lincoln and Washington. For Washington, the day would honor his efforts in forming an independent America and delivering the constitution. On the other hand, the day should celebrate the achievements of Lincoln in setting the slaves free and uniting the Americans when the country was threatened by division. As a result, I would suggest the day to be given a name such as Americans two symbols.

Works Cited

Anderson, Archibald B. A Course of Study in History and Handbook to the State Series Advanced Text. California: W.W. Shannon, 1908 pp76-80.

Dube, Ryan. The Origins of Presidents Day. Articlebase. Web.

Imbornoni, Ann M. Presidents’ Day or Washington’s Birthday? Infloplease. Web.

Frost, Helen and Saunders-Smith, Gail. Presidents’ Day. Capstone Press, 2000 pp 03-25.

Margaret, Amy. President’s Day. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2002 pp 06-45.

Nelson, Robin. Presidents’ Day 2nd Ed. Lerner Publications, 2002 pp 10-20.

Roop, Peter. Let’s Celebrate Presidents’ Day. Millbrook Press, 2001 p. 54.

Rosinsky, Natalie M. Presidents Day. Compass Point Books, 2006 pp 23-72.


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