Presidents’ Day: What Even is it?


Washington celebrating his birthday. January 27, 2021. To this day, America celebrates Washington’s Birthday every year on January 22nd. (Mount Vernon)

February 22nd, also known as Presidents’ Day, is a holiday Americans celebrate every year with such excitement. Not because it is a day to celebrate past presidents but because it is a day when students and adults get to rest at home or indulge in some sweet holiday retail deals. 

“Presidents’ Day is a good holiday, we just never do anything for it,” Abby Settipani, a senior at Lambert High School stated. “During Presidents’ Day, I always get the 5 day weekend and I notice a lot of furniture companies have sales.”

The holiday in itself is silly. The fact that “Presidents’ Day” isn’t even the legal name of the holiday makes the day feel weird. The actual name of the Holiday is “Washington’s Birthday,” in honor of the U.S’ first president, George Washington. Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted, Washington’s birthday was actually on February 11, 1731. In 1879, to honor his name, Washington’s birthday was added to the official list of federal holidays. 

The controversy with the name to be changed to “Presidents’ Day” began in the mid-1900s when people wanted to recognize Abraham Lincoln as a prominent figure in history on his birthday, February 12th. This change, however, never happened and the name remained the same, yet throughout the past decades, people no longer refer to it as Washington’s Birthday and instead use Presidents’ Day to celebrate a wider range of presidents instead of focusing on just one. Historians fought to keep the original name because they believed that changing the name would make future generations forget about America’s first president. Today, the general population has no knowledge of the actual name of the holiday, because they were taught otherwise. 

“I had no idea President’s Day wasn’t the real name,” Eshitha Narayanan, a Senior at Lambert stated. “I honestly never really understood why we would only celebrate one president’s birthday instead of all.”

For others, dedicating a day to presidents who have done more harm than good makes no sense. Sure, while George Washington may have helped the United States grow independent from England’s tyrannic rule, what consequences were buried by the idea of freedom? Native Americans were run out of their homeland and were treated horribly by colonizers. 

Not only that but many choose to brush under the rug the fact that Abraham Lincoln was in no rush to free slaves in America. He was under the pressure of succession and wanted to keep the Union together, so he did what he had to for his own goal, not to free people who deserved to be free and live equally among other citizens. Lincoln also had no plans after the war to grant African-Americans civil rights. Although his decision was a huge step towards freeing people from horrible conditions, the reason for making the decision was for Lincoln to make sure succession did not happen. 

While having a three-day weekend sounds nice, we need to take a step back and think about what the purpose for celebrating Washington’s Birthday really is and if this holiday really reflects who we should honor in history.