Who Created Presidents Day

Who created Presidents Day? While the celebrations to mark the births of presidents Washington and Lincoln were created by state and federal governments, it was an act of Congress that combined these observances into the holiday we enjoy today.

Nixon's Legacy
Throughout the 1950s, the number of state and national holidays celebrated throughout the year came to be a bother to business and government leaders. There were simply too many interruptions in the workweek at too many times. Congress and trade groups began to advocate for a standardization of holidays to make things less disruptive.

Richard Nixon is the president who actually issued the Presidential Proclamation to put Presidents Day on the calendar. His proclamation also allowed a change in the dates of holidays and the number of paid holidays for Federal workers. Since Federal holidays often set the schedule for business holidays, this move rippled throughout American society.

By implementing this change, the government had an official guarantee in place. All holidays would forever fall on Mondays, thereby giving all Federal employees a three-day weekend, which cleaned up national holidays floating in the middle of the week. It also eliminated a few state holidays, including Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday, thereby saving money.

This change was begun in 1968 when Congress passed House Resolution 15951. The Uniform Holidays Bill took effect in 1971. Nixon intended the day to be an observation for all presidents, but most Americans still see it as a celebration of Washington and Lincoln.

Understanding Presidents Day
In order to understand the reasoning behind this special day, we have to travel back in time to the early 1770s. Because both Great Britain and America were using the Julian calendar, the months were slowly moving out of synch with the seasons. In 1752, Great Britain switched to the Gregorian calendar and America followed. This change created an 11-day gap between the old calendar and the new.

George Washington, the first president of the United States, was born on February 11, 1732, while the Julian calendar was in use. When the calendar changed, the 11-day gap brought his new birth date to February 22. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born on February 12, 1809, under the Gregorian calendar. The birthdates of both of these presidents were being celebrated separately and differently within each state.

The observation for George Washington's birthday began in 1781. Lincoln's birthday was celebrated nationally for the first time in 1866, one year after his assassination. Lincoln's birthday was considered a state holiday, with 30 states actively observing that day, while Washington's was considered a national holiday.

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