‘Washington’s Birthday’ celebrates all presidents


MCT Campus

Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota, also recognizes Washington and Lincoln along with Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt to represent the first 130 years of U.S. history. And, ever since the year 1971, Presidents’ Day has never fallen on the birthday of any American president. The birthdays of the four presidents born in February – George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan – are too early or late to coincide with the holiday.

The third Mon. in Feb. is known to Americans as Presidents’ Day. Like Independence Day, the holiday is viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance.

It was officially established in 1885 under the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes and was celebrated on Feb. 22 to recognize President George Washington’s birthday. The holiday was the first one that celebrated the life of an individual American.

“I think that the second U.S. holiday for a single person is Martin Luther King Day. Hard to believe,” freshman Shruti Mishra said.

The 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act attempted to create more three-day weekends for workers in the U.S. by moving several federal holidays to a series of Mondays.

The act also combined the celebration of Washington’s birthday with that of Abraham Lincoln’s. This was seen as a way to give equal recognition to two famous American statesmen.

Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, the same person who suggested the Uniform Act, also proposed the idea of renaming the holiday “Presidents’ Day” to honor all presidents.

However, this was not widely accepted, especially by lawmakers in Washington’s home state Virginia.

So, Washington’s Birthday was shifted to the third Monday of February, falling in between Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays. Retailers used the opportunity to flood the three-day weekend with sales and bargains. They advertised “Presidents’ Day” in stores nationwide.

“I never realized this until now, but many holidays in the U.S. have some sort of link to retail. For example, the word ‘black’ in Black Friday refers to the black ink or profits,” Mishra said.

The shift was solidified in the early 2000’s.

“So many holidays are recent in the timeline of American history. A lot of them have been added in just the past decade or two,” Mishra said.