Why Do We Celebrate President's Day

Why do we celebrate Presidents' Day? President's Day is a federal holiday in the United States, celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally called Washington's Birthday, it was a day set aside in 1885 by President Chester Arthur as a day to honor the "father of our country." In the 1960s, reformers sought to include the name change to President's Day in order to include honoring President Abraham Lincoln. The resolution was defeated and, contrary to popular belief, the name of the federal holiday has never been officially changed although popular usage has made President's Day appear on advertising, calendars and in the media. Even the White House refers to the holiday as President's Day.

All states celebrate a version of President's Day, but names and honorees vary depending on location. Many states have expanded the holiday to honor other presidents who were born or raised in their state. In Virginia, the holiday is known just as George Washington Day, while Massachusetts honors all the presidents that have hailed from that state with Presidents Day. Alabama celebrates Washington and Jefferson Day while many other states, including California, hold President's Day as a federal holiday and celebrate Lincoln's birthday as a state holiday. Regardless of what state, President's Day or its equivalent is a special holiday designed to honor and remember the leaders of the United States and their contributions to creating the country it is today.

Location is a primary factor in how people celebrate President's Day. Because President's Day is always on a Monday, many people celebrate what's often referred to as President's Day Weekend. Most use the holiday to travel and recreate, whether it's camping in the mountains, a picnic on the beach or visiting friends or family. Elementary and middle schools often take the time around President's Day to teach students about U.S. presidents. Generally, the focus is on Washington and Lincoln and any president originating from that state.

Other President's Day observances include community and city celebrations. Many choose to honor government workers on this day; even the U.S. Congress holds a special ceremony. The U.S. Senate takes a moment to read Washington's "Farewell Address" each year, a tradition dating back to 1862. President's Day weekend is also a time where retail stores typically hold major sales. Big shopping excursions have now become a regular occurrence for many during the President's Day holiday.

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