Presidents Day and its Past


Officially known as Washington’s Birthday, the holiday more commonly known as Presidents Day is often casually regarded as just another day off school for students across the nation. But, the holiday serves, and has served, a significant historical purpose since the 19th century.

Since George Washington’s death in 1799, his birthday, February 22, had been an unofficial holiday up until the 1870s, as a way to venerate the leader of the American Revolution. The holiday eventually reached legislators and was then made official.

“In the late 1870s, Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey proposed the idea of adding Washington’s birth date, February 22, to the four existing bank holidays previously approved in 1870,” states the U.S. government on the information website “Signed into law January 31, 1879, by President Rutherford B. Hayes, the law was implemented in 1880 and applied only to District federal workers.” 

In the 20th century, the holiday began to shift from being known as Washington’s Birthday to the modern-day Presidents Day. There were a few pieces of legislation proposed by Congress and the Oval Office, along with a proposal to officially change the name from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents Day.

“In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays,” historical and general knowledge website Encyclopaedia Britannica describes. “The change was designed to schedule certain holidays so that workers had a number of long weekends throughout the year, but it has been opposed by those who believe that those holidays should be celebrated on the dates they actually commemorate.” 

Participation in the holiday is not anything significant, with most “celebration” being official statements from government institutions and workers. Some companies, like HP, Sephora, Amazon, etc. also have big sales for Presidents Day. 

“In the weeks or days leading up to the holiday, schools often organize events and lessons for students about the presidents of the United States and George Washington in particular. It is a popular day for stores to start their sales,” says holiday-organizer website

Presidents Day has a very simple yet interesting background. While the holiday isn’t on anyone’s radar most of the time, it’s still important and fun to know history and acquire knowledge about our nation.