Presidents' Day

Celebrate Presidents Day on February 20th—or celebrate George Washington's Birthday. Or is it Lincoln’s? This holiday has a muddled history of changing dates, mixed-up designations, and enough confusion that even the Father of the Nation would find difficulty being honest about it. Though it's popularly known as President's day, those who have reservations of celebrating every president may find comfort in the clarification that the official holiday is Washington's Birthday.

George Washington's birthday is actually February 22nd, and this date was first named a national holiday by the 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, in 1885. It is the fifth federally recognized holiday in this country's history and the first to celebrate an individual. However, the nation had been celebrating Washington's birthday even before its official designation. 1832 would have been his one hundredth birthday, and February 22nd saw nationwide parades and a procession in the capital attended by then President John Quincy Adams. Massachusetts was the first state to name it a holiday in 1856 and several states followed. The Capitol added it as a federal holiday in 1879. In 1932, on Washington's 200th birthday, his home estate at Mount Vernon was opened to the public. President Herbert Hoover also recognized the occasion by issuing an executive order that extended Washington's legacy by rechristening the oldest military medal, created by Washington: the Purple Heart.

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