5 Fun Facts About Presidents Day
by Michelle Carr Crowe, Silicon Valley real estate agent and guide to San Jose holidays
For most people in Silicon Valley, Calif. Presidents Day is an official paid holiday. Referred to as Presidents Day and President’s Day, in the minds of most Americans this holiday celebrates our nation’s heritage and leadership, specifically, the births of George Washington, the “Father of Our Country”, and Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” of the slaves.
This year Presidents Day falls on February 19, 2013.
San Jose, Calif. residents who attended school during the 1960’s can remember when there were two separate holidays for the birthdays of both of these honored men: Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 and George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22.
Before sharing the 5 Fun Facts About Presidents Day, test your knowledge about the holiday with this quiz first.
1. Who (or which) first suggested Presidents Day as a federal holiday?
A. Abraham Lincoln
B. Richard Nixon
D. Chester A. Arthur
2. What year was the first federal Presidents Day holiday held?
D. None of the above
3. Presidents’ Day honors which president(s):
A. George Washington
B. Abraham Lincoln
C. Richard Nixon
D. Washington and Lincoln
E. All presidents
4. How often does George Washington’s actual birthday fall on Presidents’ Day?
A. Every 4 years
B. Every 7 years
D. Every 6 years (due to leap year)
5. George Washington’s actual birthday is:
A. Feb. 11
B. Feb. 12
C. Feb. 21
D. Feb. 22
Now for the 5 Fun Facts...
1) Washington’s Birthday was the country’s first proclaimed federal holiday acknowledging a public figure’s birthday. When first celebrated in the District of Columbia in 1880, and later in 1885 by all states, the holiday generated patriotic fervor, exceeded only by July 4th, Independence Day. President Chester A. Arthur was the one who proclaimed February 22nd as a federal holiday celebrating George Washington’s birthday.
2) George Washington officially and legally had 2 birthdays. Washington was born on February 11th in 1732, when the Julian calendar was still in use. In 1752, the Gregorian calendar was adopted to standardize the small differences in leftover time each year. This was when February 29 began being used every four years (Leap Year). This calendar changed his birthday from February 11th to February 22nd, a full 11 days later.
3) A group, not a person first suggested Presidents Day as a holiday. Although President Chester A. Arthur first made George Washington’s birthday a federal holiday, it was a trade organization that first suggested an official Presidents Day holiday. That group was NATO-the National Association of Tour Organizers.
4) What people refer to as Presidents’ Day, is, and officially remains, remains a federal holiday known as Washington’s birthday. Other states such as California that previously celebrated Lincoln’s birthday individually have now combined it into one holiday.
5) Since 1971, the U.S. has never celebrated George Washington’s birthday on his actual birthday. His birthday, which was a federal holiday, was adjusted permanently to the third Monday in February. Ironically, this ensures the country never actually celebrates Washington on his actual birthday-either of them.
In the 1950’s, NATO (National Association of Tour Organizations) proposed combining Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday into one holiday, and setting it for the third Monday of February. In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Act officially set the three-day holiday, which first began being observed in 1971. Three-day holidays were originally initiated to limit absenteeism. (The first four federal holidays were for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day). However, the name change did not pass.
The confusion about Presidents’ Day and Washington’s birthday arises from conflicts between federal and state holiday observances.
For example, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated by some states, including California, yet was never made a federal holiday. Some states still celebrate Lincoln’s birthday separately. Uniquely, Alabama celebrates Abraham Lincoln’s and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday together on Feb. 12th, even though Jefferson was born in April.
Whether it's called Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday or Presidents Day, enjoy the three-day holiday, as in Silicon Valley fair weather is predicted for February 19, 2013.
RESULTS and correct answers to the quiz:
1. D-None, there is no federal Presidents Day, only Washington’s Birthday.
2. C-NATO (National Association of Tour Organizations) first suggested it in the 1950’s.
3. A-George Washington.
4. C-Never, as the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of the month, falling between Feb. 15-21.
5. A and D-Washington’s Julian birthday was Feb. 11 and his Gregorian birthday was Feb. 22.
For more information view these links to sources used and other historical sites about Presidents Day, Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday:
This has been 5 Fun Facts to Test Yourself With About Presidents Day February 19, 2013.