By Woodrow Polston
Presidents’ Day was originally established in 1885, in recognition of President George Washington’s birthday, which was on Feb. 11, 1731. The federal holiday honoring Washington was implemented by an act of congress in 1879 for government offices in Washington, D.C., and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices. As the first federal holiday to honor an American president, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s birthday under the Gregorian calendar, on Feb. 22.
The holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after Jan. 1, 1971, when the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It has since that time become a holiday in which to honor all persons who have served in the office of president of the United States. For most Americans, it also means an extended three-day weekend. So how do most Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day?
Many citizens will display the American flag on the front of their home to acknowledge the holiday, at the very least. Surprisingly, a lot of people will bake and eat cherry pies on this occasion. In Fact, National Cherry Pie Day falls on the day before Presidents’ Day this year. It is closely associated with President George Washington, as a result of a often-told tale about his youth. The cherry tree myth is one of the most well-known and longest enduring legends about our first president.
In the original story, when Washington was 6 years old he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his father discovered what he had done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, “I cannot tell a lie … I did cut it with my hatchet.” Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than 1,000 trees.
Some ideas around the web, include a variety of activities for this holiday. One suggestion is to take advantage of the occasion by writing a letter to the current president, or one of the former presidents. Other ideas and recommendations include studying the history of our presidents, visiting museums or national landmarks that recognize our presidents, our simply taking the time to reflect on our nation’s history and values.
Some interesting facts about our former presidents include that George Washington was the only president unanimously elected. Meaning all of the state representatives had voted for him.
John Adams died on the same day as Thomas Jefferson, July 4th, 1826. This day was also the 50th anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence.
James Madison and George Washington are the only presidents who signed the Constitution. James Monroe was the fifth president, but the third to die on the 4th of July. On the day he was shot, Lincoln told his bodyguard that he had dreamed he would be assassinated. Abraham Lincoln often stored things like letters and documents in his tall stove-piped hat.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to appear on TV during a 1939 broadcast from the World’s Fair. At 42 years, 10 months, 18 days old, Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest man to hold the office of president.
Teddy Roosevelt was blind in his left eye because of an injury in a boxing match.
When Ronald Reagan was shot during an attempted assassination in 1981, he joked, “I forgot to duck.”
John F. Kennedy was the first president who was a Boy Scout.
Woodrow Wilson was buried at the Washington National Cathedral. He is the only president buried in Washington D. C.