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News in Youth Services

Monday, February 19, 2018

Happy Presidents' Day

I figured I'd include a little history lesson for this week as Presidents' Day occurs on Monday, February 19th.  I know a few parents are groaning because the kids are off school again, but in 1971 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act changed President's Day to the third Monday of the month to create a three-day weekend for the nation's workers (hopefully if you are reading this, you are someone who gets this advantage).  

The American holiday was originally established in 1885 to recognize President George Washington, the Father of our Country.  The holiday was first an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s until it became a federal holiday in 1879 by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  In the beginning it only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it expanded to the whole country.  It was the first holiday to celebrate the life of an individual American until 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law.

Remember me talking about the Uniform Monday Holiday Act from above? Congress passed this law which shifted the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays.  It was seen as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation's workers, a way to reduce employee absenteeism, and it was heavily supported by the retail business community (remember those Presidents' Day sales!).  The law also combined the celebration of Washington's Birthday with Abraham Lincoln's Birthday, which had long been a state holiday in Illinois.  This also shifted holidays such as Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day to their designated dates.  However, after widespread criticism, Veterans' Day was returned to its original November 11th date in 1980. 

Interestingly enough, the holiday was called George Washington's Birthday until the early 2000s, when by then more than 50 states had changed the holiday's name to Presidents' Day to celebrate the lives of both Lincoln and Washington.  Although Washington and Lincoln are the two most recognized figures for this holiday, Presidents' Day is now seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America's Chief Executives.

If you'd like to learn more about a certain U.S. President, please come visit us and check out Scholastic Go on our website for some interesting facts.  We'll also be happy to show you some great biography choices about past and current presidents.  There are also some wonderful collection of stories about the U.S. Presidents, some even from when they were kids.  Perhaps you are even thinking about becoming the Commander and Chief one day,; then you need to check out the book So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George.

I'll leave you with this quick interesting fact because I know you probably have a sale you just have to get to:

Did You Know???

President's Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president.  Four chief executives - George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan - were born in February, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents' Day. 

Books on Presidents

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