The History of Presidents’ Day

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Every February, we get to celebrate our country’s leaders, both past and present, on Presidents’ Day. But why, exactly, do we celebrate it? Here at Don Wessel Honda, we want to help you better understand this national holiday, so here’s a quick history of Presidents’ Day.

Presidents’ Day was first established in 1885, recognizing President George Washington’s birthday, which landed on February 22. Traditionally, the holiday was known as “Washington’s Birthday.” So, how did it become Presidents’ Day as we know it now?

In 1971, this national holiday was moved from Washington’s actual birthday to the third Monday in February as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This law shifted the celebration of several federal holidays, such as Veterans Day and Columbus Day, from specific dates to a variety of predetermined Mondays with the aim to give American workers more three-day weekends.

The move away from the specific celebration of Washington’s birthday turned the day into a general Presidents’ Day, allowing American’s to celebrate all U.S. presidents, both past and present. Despite this, the day is still called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.

Though the holiday is now known by most as Presidents’ Day, some states still have specific days to celebrate certain presidents and public figures. For instance, Arkansas celebrates both Washington and civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates, while Alabama uses it to commemorate both Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

While the holiday has changed since its conception in 1885, it is still a great way to celebrate our country’s history.

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