There are several public holidays in the United States, and Presidents’ Day is one of them. Celebrated on every third Monday of February, Presidents’ Day is considered a day of symbolic celebration of patriotic glory across the country.
Learning history helps us respect and preserve the legacy of those who came before us. Therefore, this blog explains all you need to know about Presidents’ Day, its history, timeline, who celebrates it, and how it is celebrated.
What is Presidents’ Day?
Presidents’ Day is an American federal holiday that is marked on the third Monday of February, which falls on February 20 this year. Although the Associated Press Stylebook
and most magazines and newspapers refer to this holiday as Presidents’ Day, its technically correct name under Federal law is “Washington’s Birthday,” in memory of George Washington, the first President of the United States.
was born in Colonia, Virginia, on February 22, 1732. He rose through military ranks to become the first President of the most powerful country in the world in 1789, at the age of 57. Before becoming the President, Washington also commanded the Continental Army during the American Revolution that lasted between 1775 and 1783, in addition to presiding over the convention that drafted the first-ever United States Constitution.
Over the years, the holiday has informally become an avenue to celebrate the other three American Presidents with birthdays in February. These include Abraham Lincoln
(February 12), William Henry Harrison
(February 9), and Ronald Regan
(February 6). Despite being a national holiday, Presidents’ Day is not binding by Congress or Presidential stipulations in all states. Instead, each state is allowed to determine its holidays based on the laws.
Presidents’ Day—A Brief History
Presidents’ Day holiday celebrations came to life a few months after the passing away of George Washington. This was long before the American Congress declared it a federal holiday, officially naming it Washington’s Birthday. The official declaration of Washington’s Birthday as a legal holiday came in 1879 under President Rutherford B. Hayes
, but the holiday was to be observed on February 22 every year.
The February 22 celebrations continued well into the 20th century. However, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Act into law, which ensures “uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” The plan was initiated by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois and aimed to increase the number of three-day weekends for workers.
This development was welcomed by both the labor union and the private sector, and it shifted Washington’s Birthday, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, and Memorial Day to Monday. The name “Presidents’ Day” was unofficially adopted because the date landed in the middle of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. This also provided retail stores with a unique avenue to advertise their special sales events during this period.
When is Presidents’ Day 2023?
As stated earlier, most U.S. states recognize and mark Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February. However, all three-day retail store sales are also referred to as “Presidents’ Day” Sales, which has contributed significantly to how we describe and approach the holiday. For the year 2023, Presidents’ Day will be celebrated on Monday, February 20.
How is Presidents’ Day Celebrated?
Depending on the State, there is usually a long list of activities and events slated for Presidents’ Day. In the U.S. Senate, George Washington’s farewell speech
is read on the floor, as well as in history classes and online discussion boards. Outside the government quarters, family and friends engage in parades and patriotic celebrations to mark the occasion. Most of the celebrations often focus on Washington and Lincoln, with Jefferson following closely.
It is common to see cherry-based dishes on display during the day, emanating from the popular tale of George Washington chopping a cherry tree. There are also great deals on appliances and home furniture as part of the celebrations. You may want to look out for these offers. People also visit the treasured residence of Washington on this day, located on Mount Vernon, a hill overlooking the Potomac River
in the South of Fairfax County. The turnout is usually massive because the visit is free for everyone on Presidents’ Day.
The George Washington Birthday Parade also holds in Laredo, Texas. This parade is widely tagged as the largest parade in the country, and it usually marks the end of a month-long parade that honors all the presidents of the United States. Alexandra, Virginia, also plays host to a month-long celebration for presidents, ending in a parade for Washington. If you are in Florida, you can join the GeorgeFest
, an annual event to mark the holiday, which has been held annually since 1902.
What is Closed on Presidents’ Day?
Considering Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday, most banks, schools, and similar public establishments will be closed for the day. The United States Post Office will also be closed on the day, which means residential and business mail will not be delivered. The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ will also be closed for trading on the day.
All government agencies will be closed. Non-essential federal workers also get to have the day off. Street parking will be free, and public transport systems will operate on a light schedule as it occurs on a Sunday or any other public holiday. However, libraries will be open for service hours.
Retail stores and restaurants will mostly be open, including Walmart, Target, and grocery stores. These stores often have great sales to commemorate the holidays.
Is Presidents’ Day A Paid Holiday?
Presidents’ Day is an American national paid holiday for federal government workers. Most States also observe the holidays, which means most offices will be closed for the day, and state workers can get the day off.
However, private organizations and companies decide whether to make it a paid holiday or not. Some private employers may give employees the day off. If you need clarification, feel free to reach out to your manager or H.R. Workers working on Presidents’ Day may be entitled to holiday premium pay
Let’s Celebrate Presidents’ Day 2023 Together!
Every federal holiday in the United States has a historical and cultural value behind it. Presidents’ Day is not an exception. The holiday is dedicated to celebrating the past heroes of American democracy and is the first federal holiday that honors an individual’s birth date. So, whether you call it Presidents’ Day or Washington’s Birthday, February 20, 2023, is another great day to honor President George Washington, and we must make it count. Take a trip to Mount Vernon, join the GeorgeFest, or participate in the George Washington Birthday Parade.
Have an enjoyable Presidents’ Day celebration.