Community Voices

Young Observers Mid-February 2023: Historical Perspective

Presidents Day: 233 Years of History

The United States of America has quite a history of presidents. From George Washington in 1789 to Joe Biden in the present day, each president has made noteworthy contributions (and roadblocks) to the development of our country.

To honor our American presidents for what they have done for our country, we celebrate Presidents’ Day each year on the third Monday of February. Created to recognize George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as both of their birthdates fall close to the day, it has now expanded to celebrate all past and present U.S. presidents.

Here is a history of how this federal holiday came to be. The roots of Presidents’ Day stem back to the beginning of the 19th century. George Washington, born on February 22nd, passed away at the turn of the century. In remembrance of the great war general and president who was at the time (and arguably still to this day) the most prominent figure in American history, many citizens began to honor his accomplishments and achievements every year on his birthdate. Significantly large celebrations commenced in 1832, the hundredth anniversary of Washington’s birth, and in 1848, the year the Washington Monument began construction.

However, it was not until 1862 that his birthday was officially recognized as a national celebration. President Abraham Lincoln first created the proclamation that celebrated the yearly anniversary of Washington’s birth, and 17 years later, Congress turned it into a federal holiday.

The most recent legal change to the celebration came in 1968 when President Lyndon B. Johnson made it so that its date would occur yearly on a Monday. Although the government officially knows the holiday as “Washington’s Birthday,” it has grown quite a bit over the last century and a half to incorporate several different meanings. Abe Lincoln, whose birthday comes about a week before Washington’s, is also commonly celebrated on President’s Day.

People are also keen to celebrate veterans and soldiers on this day, especially those who have received the Purple Heart, an award given to soldiers wounded in battle.