I saw a commercial with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln break dancing. Then, the commercial announced their annual Presidents Day Sale. Coincidentally, I saw historian Doris Kearns Goodwin talking about the recent Lincoln movie. In the interview, she described Lincoln as walking very stiffly. Without reading specifically on Lincoln’s dance moves, it gave me a sense that Kearns Goodwin would take exception to Lincoln brake dancing at the White House.
That drove me to do some quick research on Presidents Day. Little did I know that what I knew… I didn’t know. Yes, it was that clear to me. I had to read the Wikipedia description for Presidents Day more than once, and I am still a bit confused. So, let me try to clarify my own confusion.
I now know that there is no Presidents Day federal holiday. Probably best to leave that image of Lincoln doing the robot dance, somewhere in the recesses of our mind. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned. You may already know the exciting ending of this story.
If you check with the US Office of Personnel Management, it lists “Washington’s Birthday” as the name of the holiday that is Federally celebrated on every third Monday of February. In February 2001, Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) did introduce a “Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act”, but it died in committee.
Washington’s birthday has been a federal holiday since 1885. For more than 80 years it was celebrated on his birthday of February 22. For certainty including the certainty of having a Monday off, I guess that led to moving it to the third Monday in February.
Because Presidents Day is not the official name of the Federal holiday, it is commonly spelled as “Presidents” or “Presidents'” but never “President’s” Day. Approximately 12 states have now officially recognized this holiday as “Presidents’ Day” or “Washington and Lincoln Day”. In Virginia, it is formally recognized by the government as George Washington Day.
This holiday is known for car sales, mattress discounts and sometimes even parades. It’s nice that we think of Washington and Lincoln, who stood head and shoulders above others; literally above others, since they both were more than six-feet tall.
It also makes us think about what made these men great. Washington was not convinced that he was the right man as President. He wrote, “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”. Maybe, if our current politicians looked at their jobs to get things done, instead of the excitement of reelection; than maybe we all would have a better feeling about the city of Washington.
I am still trying to understand the inconsistency of Presidents Day. Still, I am hoping that someone does announce that Washington did not chop down the cherry tree as a kid.The cherry tree story of honesty, honestly happened. Right? . . Plus, I really do like cherry pies. This holiday also gives me a good excuse for some good fixin’s and a reason to remember great men of our country’s history. Happy Washington’s birthday and Presidents Day.
For pic o’ day, more on learning: