Today is Presidents Day, or so I thought and I bet you thought so too. However, it is not now, nor has it ever been, officially “Presidents Day.” The legal holiday we are celebrating today is Washington’s Birthday.
George Washington, first president and father of our country, was born February 22 and that other great president born in February, Abraham Lincoln, was born February 12. Washington’s Birthday was first designated a holiday in 1880 by the District of Columbia and then adopted by the federal government in 1885. Lincoln’s birthday has never been recognized as a legal federal holiday however many individual states have observed it as such.
In 1951 the “President’s Day National Committee made the first attempt to create a Presidents Day to honor all presidents. The committee promoted March 4, the date of early inaugurations, as Presidents Day, however, it died in committee because of its proximity to Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. They felt three holidays so close together would create an undue burden. Creating more confusion was the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968 which moved federal holidays to Mondays to promote business with three-day weekends. By the mid 1980’s advertisers were running special sales during this weekend and calling it Presidents Day.
So, even though you thought this was an officially sanctioned holiday, if you celebrate “Presidents Day” you are actually playing into the hands of advertisers. Regardless of what this day actually is, let us take a moment to reflect on the lives and dedication of two, true American heroes—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
In recognition of Lincoln, I will close with a poem I wrote 53 years ago when I was in the sixth grade. I recently found a copy of the school newspaper with my poem on the front page dated Friday, Feb. 28, 1958 in my box of memories. It is interesting to note that all along the margins of the paper I had written my name, guess I was practicing my autograph for bigger things to come. For what it’s worth, here is my first published piece.
Abraham Lincoln was born on a snowy, frosty morn,
In a little log cabin that was weathered and worn.
His parents were poor but honest and kind.
Abe was always able to bind his jokes and witty ways
To make them pleasant through out his days.
When Abraham Lincoln started to school
He always followed the golden rule.
He worked by day and read by night,
Near the hearth by the log firelight.
When he grew older he studied law,
And practiced it at the state bar.
President of the United States he became
His kindness, his wit, and knowledge brought fame.
His title was known both far and near
As “Honest Abe of the Illinois Frontier.”
——–Sheila Moore 6d