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Presidents' Day 2024

(FILE) U.S. Dollar banknotes
(FILE) U.S. Dollar banknotes

Today, Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day, which recognizes every president, past and present, in particular George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,

Presidents' Day 2024
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On the third Monday in February, Americans celebrate Presidents’ Day. Today, the commemoration recognizes every president, past and present, in particular George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays fall just 10 days apart: February 22nd for Washington and the 10th for Lincoln.

However, the initial celebrations, and subsequently, the official recognition of the holiday in 1971, have never changed the name of Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day, nor does it also celebrate Lincoln. It is, as it always has been, a day of thanks and recognition of the country’s first President, George Washington.

George Washington led the rebel army that won the country’s independence from the British Crown. He was immensely popular. The first documented celebration of his birthday was in 1778, at the rebel army’s winter camp in Valley Forge, not far from the city of Philadelphia. Back then, a contingent of drummers and fifers gave a musical birthday performance in front of his quarters. Washington later said that the celebration “began as a snub to King George.”

Washington was not someone who sought to be feted and celebrated, but he understood the necessity of a unifying persona, an individual that could rally the population and inspire it to work together for the good of the new country.

Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday informally in the years after his death in 1799. February became a national holiday in 1879 and a law moving the celebration to the third Monday in February went into effect in 1971.

Washington set the precedent for all those who followed him in the country’s highest office. He put the nation on a sound financial footing and led the young United States of America through the initial labor pains that quickly gave birth to a stable, democratic, and lawful government. By leaving office voluntarily after two four-year terms, and by ensuring the peaceful transfer of power to the leader elected to succeed him, George Washington set an important precedent for all future presidents.