Why I think President’s Day is a Strange Holiday

Three things strike me as making Presidents Day holiday strange.

1.    There’s no universal agreement on the actual name of the holiday

Most American holidays are clear-cut in what we are celebrating or honoring, i.e. 4th of July, Thanksgiving, or Martin Luther King Day.

Not so with Presidents Day. Ask several people what President’s Day recognizes or why we celebrate, and you’re likely to get totally different answers.

Fact is, President’s Day originated to recognize George Washington’s actual day of birth, February 22. It was the first federal holiday to celebrate the life of an individual and joined only four other national bank holidays – Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.

Then under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, which was passed to create more three-day weekends and increase retail and tourism revenue, it became known as Presidents’ Day and included President Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is February 12.

2.    There’s no clear clarification of which presidents are being honored

Popular culture gradually shifted the emphasis from recognizing Washington and Lincoln to a day to recognize the lives of American presidents generally.

Interesting to note that the Federal government still labels the third Monday in February on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday.

3.    There’s no agreement about whether to use an apostrophe or not

Sometimes the apostrophe isn’t used at all (as in Presidents Day), sometimes it is placed between the last two letters (President’s Day), and sometimes it is after the last letter (Presidents’ Day).

No specific title for the holiday is a little confusing, especially if you happen to be an English teacher.

Seems reasonable to say those three things make Presidents’ Day or President’s Day or Presidents Day a slightly strange holiday.

Wouldn’t you agree?


3 Comments on “Why I think President’s Day is a Strange Holiday

  1. Interesting post, Judythe. I’ve come to accept that we’re celebrating all past presidents, hence the story of John Adams on television today. But you’re So right about the confusion of how it began and to what it has evolved into.
    Enjoyed your post!

  2. Sometimes leaders of such incredible value comes along that even considering their value is beyond our abilities. Don’t worry about the apostrophe. Thank God for sending them to us when we needed them.

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