President’s Day - like many other national holidays - has become an excuse to go shopping due to the large sales many stores hold. President’s Day, now celebrated on the 3rd Monday of February, stands for much more than that, though. It has deep roots in American History and exists that we may remember former leaders of our country - specifically George Washington.
Originally, President’s Day was known as Washington’s Birthday and was always celebrated on February 22nd, his actual birthday. It dates back to February 1800, the year after Washington’s death. At the time, George Washington was considered the most prominent American figure, thus an unofficial celebration seemed necessary. Nearly 85 years later, it became an official National Holiday. It was 1 of 5 National Holidays and the only one celebrating an individual’s life.
AMERICA'S FIRST PRESIDENT - GEORGE WASHINGTON
Washington’s Birthday becomes President’s Day
In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was signed into law. The Act was an attempt to create more 3-day weekends for government workers to discourage truancy. By this time, Washington’s Birthday was joined by Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day. Each was moved from it’s original day to a certain Monday of it’s respective month. Some people thought moving the holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meanings. Retailers were for it as they saw it as an opportunity to boost sales.
By moving Washington’s Birthday to the 3rd Monday in February, many considered it a way to honor Abraham Lincoln who also had a February birthday. This led to a proposal to change the name to President’s Day. Marketers and retailers were among the first to start promoting the name change. They began advertising “President’s Day” sales. Some states celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday separately from Washington’s birthday giving government workers and schools two days off in February.
FROM THE RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX COLLECTION - PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA - 9.5" DINNER PLATE
By the mid-1980s most Americans were referring to the Holiday as President's Day and by 2000 most calendars had also made the switch. Some states took the liberty to add prominent state figures to the list of who was honored. For example, Arkansas celebrates Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil right’s activist, on the same day. Many states also refer to the Holiday in ways to be sure both Lincoln and Washington are honored. For example, Montana calls it “Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthday.” Alabama chooses to recognize Thomas Jefferson instead of Abraham Lincoln.
No longer a birthday celebration
So far, there are four presidents with birthdays in February: George Washington, William Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan. Interestingly enough, President's Day never actually falls on any of their birthdays.
Today, most people consider President’s Day a day to recognize all the men who have served our country as President. Although not everyone gets the day off from work, we can all take time to remember the sacrifices, time, and service each President gives during their terms. We can be thankful for a nation based on strong, moral values gleaned from president’s such as George Washington.
RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired numerous pieces of official White House china from President George Washington to President Bill Clinton. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. His collection is the first or second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.