What is President’s Day and why do we celebrate it?

Presidents Day in USA

President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every February each year. This year it falls on February 18, 2019. Since it is a Federal holiday and falls on a Monday, giving us a three-day weekend.

Originally, Presidents Day was established in recognition of George Washington’s birthday in 1885. But it wasn’t established as a federal holiday until 1971, when it was made part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, creating more three-day weekends for the entire nation.

Even though several states have established holidays to celebrate birthdays of different past American presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, etc., President’s Day is the only federal holiday. But since 1971, President’s Day is often considered to be the day to celebrate all of American founding presidents, past and present presidents included.

History of Presidents Day

The history of Presidents Day goes back to the death of George Washington. After his death, his birth date was transformed into a day of remembrance. Throughout the last century or two, Washington has been one of the most venerated figures in American history. But it wasn’t called Presidents Day. It was known as Washington’s Day.

On February 22, 1832, America celebrated his 100th birthday, even though he passed away in 1799. Then, Americans celebrated this great man again, in 1848 when they began to construct the world-renown Washington Monument in honor of George Washington.

But in the late 1870’s, it was declared a federal holiday but on Washington’s actual birth date of February 22, which could fall on any day of the week. Until 1885, Washington’s Day was only recognized in the District of Columbia, but in 1885 in extended to all of the federal states.

Washington’s Day was the first established holiday that celebrated the life of an American. It wasn’t until almost 100 years later, in 1983 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established to celebrate the remarkable life of this American.

In the 1960’s, Congress proposed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which was designed to shift various federal holidays to a predetermined date, which fell on a Monday, ensuring three-day weekends for American citizens. One of the purposes was to increase retail sales, which we will get into a bit later.

While Congress was discussing moving Washington’s Day to a Monday, they discovered that four main American presidents also had their birthdays in February, such as George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. With a date change from February 22 to the third Monday of February, many Americans began to reason that the date change was so they could honor all four of these chief executives.

But the name didn’t officially change until the early 2000’s. Nowadays, most Americans consider Presidents Day to be a day to show honor to the legacy of all former presidents and even the present president. Despite this fact, the federal government considers President Day to celebrate our great country’s first founder and president.

Presidents Day traditions

Presidents Day is considered to be a patriotic celebration, such as Independence Day. Many states require public schools to give extra attention to teaching students about their country’s heritage and former presidents’ accomplishments a few days prior to the Presidents Day.

But as we mentioned before, one of the main reasons Congress decided to change the date of President’s Day to a Monday was to increase retail sales. The Federal Reserve and U.S Department of Commerce noticed a huge spike in sales on holidays, especially if it landed on a Friday or a Monday.

Retailers on an average ring in a whopping 5% increase in sales on President’s Day, mostly because it is the first federal holiday after the Christmas season. In recent years, retailers have started offering huge discounts for Presidents Day on winter clothing, as a way to prepare a way for new inventory.

An interesting fact from the Federal Reserve is that more than 30% of all retail sales are made on the federal holiday. More sales, means improved economy and more jobs for the entire country. Which in other words, equals more people spending money. So the question is: Are you planning on going shopping this Presidents Day?

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