Do you know the reason why Presidents Day is now celebrated on the third Monday in February?
Presidents Day was originally established in 1885 to commemorate the first US President, George Washington's birthday on February 22nd. In 1968 it was moved in conjunction with a Monday Holiday by President Lyndon Johnson to create more three-day weekends for working Americans. The act also combined Washington’s birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s February 12th birthday.
Johnson was a Democrat, who changed birthday celebrations of both Republican and Federalist Presidents.
When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx, February was a special time to honor our history. I mourn the fact that this has been abandoned in favor of creating a three-day weekend to make store owners happy: Presidents Day. We seem to have forgotten the presidents we used to honor at this time of year.
As schoolchildren, we would honor Abraham Lincoln on his birthday,February 12th, and, 10 days later, we'd celebrate George Washington's birthday, on February 22nd. We had a one-day holiday, whatever the day of the week it fell on, and the teacher created projects in which we drew log cabins for Lincoln and probably (I don't remember this clearly) a cherry tree for Washington. You may remember Washington chopped down the cherry tree and, when confronted by parental discipline, proved his honesty by declaring that he was the guilty party — he had chopped down the cherry tree.
Now, those February holidays are gone. We've rolled the birthdays of our great leaders into one bulky, one-day, commercialized holiday — and the great men are almost forgotten. That's a shame. We ought to bring back the time we honored Lincoln and Washington. They are more precious than the idea of creating a three-day weekend.
And the impression their stories would make on our kids is too precious to be forgotten. Let us honor our greatest presidents by teaching our children to revere them for who they were and what they did.
By: Gabe Pressman, Senior Correspondent at NBC New York