The United States observes Presidents Da, 2024 a federal holiday, on the third Monday of February. Popularly known as “Presidents’ Day,” the actual name of the occasion is “Washington’s Birthday.” This article delves into the intriguing history of George Washington’s birthday and the development of this holiday to examine the history, meaning, and misconceptions surrounding Presidents’ Day.
Presidents’ Day or Washington’s Birthday?
Presidents’ Day, despite its common name, is officially recognised as Washington’s Birthday. There has never been a requirement from either Congress or the President to change the name of this official holiday, therefore it is crucial that you grasp this distinction. Since states have the authority to establish their own official holidays, there are often regional differences in how the holiday is celebrated and referred to.
The Significance of the Name
The commemoration of not just the nation’s first president, George Washington, but also its establishment, its essential ideals, and the Constitution is implicit in the name Presidents’ Day. The scope of the celebration is expanded to include all presidents of the United States. The fact that Abraham Lincoln was born in February also lends credence to the choice of moniker “Presidents’ Day.”
Date of Presidents’ Day
Presidents’ Day is commemorated annually on the third Monday in February. Monday, February 19, 2024, is Presidents’ Day. This is a moveable holiday, with the date changing from year to year.
Historical Roots of Washington’s Birthday
George Washington’s birthday was already being commemorated by the public soon after his death, long before it was made a national holiday. It wasn’t until 1879, under the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, that February 22nd, Washington’s real birthday, became a federal holiday in his honour.
The Evolution of Presidents’ Day
Until the introduction of the Monday Holiday Law in 1968, George Washington’s birthday was commemorated on February 22. With the purpose of improving the nation’s spiritual and economic life, the law mandated additional three-day weekends. Presidents Day is now celebrated annually on the third Monday of February.
George Washington’s Real Birthday
Despite being born on February 11, 1731, George Washington’s birthday is celebrated on February 22. The difference is due to the fact that the calendar was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian system during Washington’s lifetime. To adjust birth dates to the new calendar, individuals born before 1752 had to add 11 days, while those born between January 1 and March 25 had to add a year. Therefore, Washington’s birthdate moved from February 11, 1731 (Old-Style Julian calendar) to February 22, 1732 (New-Style Gregorian calendar).
Dispelling Washington Myths
Many tall tales and legends centre on George Washington. The cherry tree legend, in which he supposedly remarked, “I cannot tell a lie,” is among the most well-known stories about him. I did it with my hatchet.” This was made up by Washington’s biographer, Parson Mason Weems, to demonstrate Washington’s integrity. Washington’s dentures were really hippopotamus teeth that were filed down to size, dispelling the misconception that they were made of wood.
A Glimpse into Washington’s Character
George Washington was a truly exceptional character in American history, despite the myths and stories that surround him. It is generally known that at first he was hesitant to take on the role of president, saying things like, “My movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.” Thankfully, he was the best candidate and ultimately succeeded, leaving behind an impressive legacy.
Whether you know it as Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day 2024, it’s a significant day to remember the nation’s first president, George Washington, and the many others who have led the country. It also sheds light on the intricate process of how we honour and memorialise the leaders who have directed the United States throughout its history by exploring the rich history and mythology surrounding this event.
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