In three minutes, I’d like to answer, what is President’s Day and why is it celebrated?
President’s Day is an American holiday rich in history because it started as a remembrance day on George Washington’s birthday. When is Washington’s birthday? Well, that’s complicated because in 1752, colonists moved from the Julian calendar (named for Julius Caesar) to the Gregorian calendar (named for Pope Gregory the 13th).
That update shifted 11 days on the calendar. So, when George was a kid, his birthday was Feb 11; but at age 20, his birthday moved forward to February 22. The year changed too. Can you imagine changing your birthday? That would be weird, but there’s more to the story.
In 1968, congress moved the occasion to the third Monday of February, so Americans could get a three day weekend out of Washington’s birthday. That’s nice. Since then, tradition has re-labeled the event “Presidents’ Day.” By calling it that, we also remember President Abraham Lincoln, the victor of the civil war, who was born on February 12. Some Americans remember all the presidents on this special federal holiday.
Let’s go now to why we celebrate President Day because it’s not just for appliance sales (though you’ll find some good deals on the three day weekend!)
One of the main reasons Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day goes back to George Washington who was most extraordinary for how he left office as the first president of the United States. You see, after serving two terms, George Washington walked away from the presidency! With unrivaled power, and the chance to serve a lifetime, if he wanted, Washington said goodbye to prestige, and goodbye to politics in 1796. He just wanted to retire at Mt. Vernon.
Yes, President Washington wanted the new nation to experience a peaceful transition of power to the next president—without the trappings of a royal blood line, briberies, or civil war (something all too common in history past.)
Well, none of America’s founders were perfectly great men or women; they had flaws. But they did have great ideas, like the time Washington resigned to move centuries of power from a king on a throne—to the voter on the street! Remember that amazing milestone in history when you think of Presidents’ Day.
For inspiration, read Washington’s Famous Farewell Address. It’s long, but the senate still reads it out loud around President’s Day.
Thanks for watching, and for more history through my books, classes, and lectures, visit: TheMysteryofHistory.com