Celebrated each year, on the third Monday in February, Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday to pay tribute to the presidents of the United States, including George Washington, the country’s first president, and Abraham Lincoln, who served during the Civil War. The holiday was originally established to honor Washington, but over time it has come to be a day to recognize all of the nation’s presidents. It is a day when many businesses and government offices are closed and people have the day off from work or school. Some people celebrate Presidents’ Day by participating in parades or other events, while others use it as a time to relax and spend time with family and friends.
History of Presidents’ Day
Presidents’ Day has its roots in the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, which has been observed as a national holiday in the United States since the late 18th century. Washington was born on February 22, 1732, and his birthday was first officially recognized as a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1879. The holiday was originally called “Washington’s Birthday,” and it was observed on February 22 each year.
In the 20th century, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which was designed to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers by moving several holidays to Mondays. As part of this act, the holiday honoring Washington was moved to the third Monday in February and was renamed “Presidents’ Day” to recognize not just Washington, but all of the presidents of the United States. The holiday has been observed on the third Monday in February since 1971.
Presidents’ Day is not only a time to honor US presidents, but also a time to reflect on the important role that they have played in shaping the nation’s history.
How to Celebrate Presidents’ Day
There are many ways to celebrate Presidents’ Day. Some people choose to honor the holiday by taking part in parades or other events that are held in honor of the presidents. Others use the day as an opportunity to learn more about the presidents and their contributions to the country. Here are a few ideas for celebrating Presidents’ Day:
Attend a Parade, or Visit a Presidential Museum or Library
Many cities and towns hold parades on Presidents’ Day to celebrate the presidents of the USA. Look for one in your area and join in the celebration. There are also many museums and libraries dedicated to the presidents of the United States.
Read a Book About a President
There are many books available about US presidents. Consider reading one of these to learn more about a particular president or the history of the presidency:
- Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning biography provides an honest portrait of George Washington, the man who became the United States’ first president.
- Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
This book chronicles the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his ability to lead and manage a diverse group of advisors and cabinet members.
- John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O’Brien.
A comprehensive biography of JFK, examining the life and legacy of the 35th president, from his childhood and education to his assassination in 1963.
- The Reagan Diaries edited by Douglas Brinkley.
A collection of diary entries written by President Ronald Reagan during his two terms in office, this book provides a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the Reagan presidency.
- Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss.
Offering a detailed and nuanced portrait of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, it covers Obama’s early life, political career, and presidency, and offers insight into the man and his leadership style.
Watch a Movie or Documentary
There are many films and documentaries about US presidents, but here’s a few to get you started:
- Lincoln (2012) – A biographical drama that stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. It focuses on Lincoln’s role in the abolition of slavery and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
- Truman (1995) – Starring Gary Sinise as the 33rd president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, the film covers Truman’s life, career, and presidency, including his role in the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan and the Korean War.
- JFK (1991) – A biographical drama starring Kevin Costner as President John F. Kennedy, this film examines the events leading up to Kennedy’s assassination and the investigations that followed.
- Nixon (1995) – Stars Anthony Hopkins as President Richard Nixon. The film covers Nixon’s political career, the Watergate scandal and his eventual resignation from office.
- The President (2019) – A documentary profiling President Barack Obama, covering his life, career, and presidency.
Participate in a Service Project
Presidents’ Day is a good time to think about ways to serve your community. Consider participating in a service project or volunteering your time to help others.