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President's Day celebrates the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

 

Presidents' Day

Washington's Birthday, also known as Presidents' Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors presidents of the United States, including George Washington, the USA's first president.

 

What do people do?

Washington's Birthday officially honors the life and work of George Washington, the first president of the United States. The day commemorates past presidents of the USA. Washington's Birthday is sometimes known as Presidents' Day. This is because while most states have adopted Washington's Birthday, some states officially celebrate Presidents' Day.

Some states pay particular attention to Abraham Lincoln, as his birthday was also in mid-February. In the weeks or days leading up to the holiday, schools often organize events and lessons for students about the presidents of the United States and George Washington in particular. It is a popular day for stores to start their sales.

The US federal holiday is on the third Monday of February each year, but records show that George Washington's birthday is on February 22.

Lincoln's Birthday is a legal holiday in some U.S. states, observed on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on February 12, 1809. Arizona, California,[1] Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and New York observe the holiday. New Jersey formerly observed the holiday, but on September 29, 2008, the Senate and General Assembly of New Jersey enacted The Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008 (Section 36 of P.L.1995, c.259 (C.52:14-17.31a)) eliminating Lincoln's Birthday as a public holiday for the purposes of conducting State government business, an act which also amended and supplemented various parts of retirement and other benefits for certain public employees.

In other states, a celebration of Lincoln's birthday is combined with a celebration of Washington's Birthday or as part of Presidents' Day. These celebrations occur on the same day as the Federal holiday, the third Monday of February, and not on Washington's or Lincoln's actual birthday.

Public life

Many businesses are open as usual and many stores hold sales on Washington's Birthday. Many delivery services, except for the Post Office, have a regular service and many, but not all, public transit systems operate on regular schedules. Some schools close for the whole week for a mid-winter recess. According to some government sources, Indiana observes the Washington's birthday holiday in December.

Background

George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. His first term as president was from 1789 to 1793 and his second term from 1793 to 1797. Before he became president, he played important roles in the military, leading the American Continental Army to victory over the British in 1783. Washington is often seen as the father of the United States and is probably the best known American politician ever.

The likeness and name of George Washington can still be seen in many places in the United States. There is the portrait of him and three other American presidents carved into Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. His image is also used on the one-dollar bill and the quarter-dollar coin. The capital of the United States, Washington D.C., Washington State and at least three universities are named after him.

Washington's Birthday was first celebrated as a holiday in the District of Columbia in 1880. It was made a federal holiday in 1885. The holiday was originally held on the anniversary of George Washington's birth, on February 22. In 1971, this holiday was moved to the third Monday in February.

This holiday is legally designated as "Washington’s Birthday". Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is the federal government’s policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

The earliest known observance of Lincoln's birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York, in 1874. Julius Francis (d. 1881), a Buffalo druggist, made it his life's mission to honor the slain president. He repeatedly petitioned Congress to establish Lincoln's birthday as a legal holiday.

The day is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The latter has been the site of a ceremony ever since the Memorial was dedicated. Since that event in 1922, observances continue to be organized by the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee and by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). A wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States, a custom also carried out at the grave sites of all deceased U.S. presidents on their birthdays. Lincoln's tomb is in Springfield, Illinois.

On February 12, 2009, the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial commemorated Lincoln's 200th birthday in grand fashion. An extended ceremony, organized by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) and with help from MOLLUS, featured musical performances from four-time Grammy-nominated singer Michael Feinstein and the U.S. Marine Corps. Band. The morning celebration also featured remarks by Sen. Dick Durbin; Lincoln scholar and ALBC Co-Chair Harold Holzer; recently retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice – and ALBC Commissioner – Frank J. Williams; and author Nikki Giovanni reciting her newest work, which was written especially for the Bicentennial.

As part of Lincoln's birthday bicentennial, the U.S. Mint released four new pennies. The commemorative coins have new designs on the reverse showing stages of his life. The first went into circulation on September 12, 2009. The standard portrait of Lincoln's head remains on the front. The new designs include a log cabin representing his birthplace, Lincoln as a young man reading while sitting on a log that he was taking a break from splitting, Lincoln as a state legislator in front of the Illinois Capitol, and the partially built dome of the U.S. Capitol.

 

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