What’s The Deal With Presidents’ Day?

Presidents' Day

Presidents’ Day is celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday in February. It is usually commemorated in the United States by the closure of government offices, no school, and plenty of mattress sales. However, if you ask people what the holiday is about, you might be surprised by some of the answers. For instance, which President is being remembered? By the name, you might think it is all Presidents of the United States. The apostrophe at the end of the word would indicate that its meaning is plural – as in more than one President. However, some people spell it President’s Day, meaning one President. It’s all very confusing. Here are the answers to some perplexing questions on this national holiday.

WHO ARE WE HONORING?

Ask this question to a group of people and you are likely to get a variety of responses. Many people will say Washington. Some might say Lincoln. Further inquiries might tell you Jefferson or all of the Presidents. So why is there a confusion? It’s because even the government doesn’t know who we are specifically giving credit to on this holiday. People started celebrating Presidents’ Day back in 1885. At the time, it was celebrated on George Washington’s birthday, which is February 22nd. However, Illinois thought Lincoln’s birthday should be celebrated, which is February 12th. Other people wanted to call it a holiday on Jefferson’s birthday, which is in March. Congress – believe it or not – could not make up their minds.

 

 WHEN DID THINGS CHANGE?

In the 1950s, there was a huge movement towards nationalism because of the Cold War. This is the time period when we added “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance and when we put “In God We Trust” on all of our money. We wanted to show the Communists, who often abolished religion, that America was a God-fearing people. At the same time, we were showing our national pride by giving American’s three-day weekends for holidays. This is why Presidents’ Day is now on the third Monday of February. Congress picked a day between Washington and Lincoln’s birthday for the federal holiday.

 

WHY MATTRESS SALES?

Well, you might think it is because all U.S. Presidents have slept on a mattress. This is probably true, but I can’t confirm their sleeping habits. The real reason, however, is purely capitalistic. Sales are slow after Christmas and retailers found that you could get more people to shop at your store if you attach a sale to a holiday. That’s all there is to it. They figured people spend more time inside during the winter months and having a sale on a holiday would bring people into their stores.

 

WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE CHERRY PIE FOR PRESIDENTS’ DAY?

I am not certain if this is as big of a thing as it was when I was younger, but cherry pie used to be very popular on Presidents’ Day. It probably comes about from the tale of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree when he was a boy and not lying about his culpability. Washington may have been an honest child, but the lie is that he never cut down the tree in the first place. This is a story made up about our first President by a book publisher named, Parson Weems. Most of the tall tales about Washington – including the one about throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River and sticking it in a tree – were creations in his mind to sell more books on our first President. As for cherry pies…it makes sense if you think about it. Washington’s mother had to do something with all of those cherries on the ground…

 

WOULD YOU BELIEVE THERE IS NO PRESIDENTS’ DAY?

There isn’t. This is just the day the Federal government is shut down. The actual holiday is February 17th, which is Washington’s birthday. It’s recognized on this Monday, that’s all. If you don’t believe me, look up the government’s Office of Personal Management list. Presidents’ Day isn’t on the list, but Washington’s birthday is there. For those of you complaining why Martin Luther King’s birthday (January 20th) is off for the kids but Presidents’ day is not, you can blame Ronald Reagan and various Congress and states throughout the past 100+ years. They made MLK day a holiday and didn’t confirm Presidents’ Day. You also may want to check into why you are so upset about it…