Uncovering Presidents’ Day

Rishab Verma, Photo Manager

There are several ways the holiday is perceived across the United States. Some states observe it, and some do not. Some states call it a different name, and for some, it does not even fall on the same day. These various differences can make it confusing to understand the true intent behind Presidents’ Day.

Presidents’ Day was originally not referred to as it is today. It began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, but it was not officially recognized as a holiday. People chose to honor the great American leader after his death in 1799 and began to celebrate his birthday for years after his passing.

As the years went on, honoring Washington every Feb. 22 became American tradition, and in 1885, it was established into a national holiday. To solidify its place in American society, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971 moved it to the third Monday of every February.

Despite its increasing popularity over the years, the holiday still has not been adopted by many states, including Iowa. The reasons vary, but as of 2019, Presidents’ Day is still not an official Iowa holiday.

According to Ava Stigler, a senior, the reason may be the fact that the modern meaning of the holiday is somewhat vague. “While I think we should celebrate our presidents’ successes, ‘Presidents Day’ is still a general term,” she said.

The amount of variation in the actual title of the holiday creates doubt over what its true purpose is. Many states declare it simply ‘Washington’s Birthday’, to honor George Washington as a founding father and original American leader. Similarly, some states use the name ‘President’s Day’, using a singular possessive. Some states choose to honor all presidents, using the name ‘Presidents’ Day’. And there are also some states where there is no specific reference of the holiday’s purpose, and the name is just ‘Presidents Day’.

Regardless of the origins and various names, it is clear the reason the holiday is still celebrated by many is to give thanks. Jamie Trentz, a senior, feels “it’s very important that we celebrate this holiday because it honors the individuals that served and still serve as leaders for our country.” He continued, “We wouldn’t be where we’re at today without our past and current presidents. I think it is a time to reflect on and appreciate our country’s leaders.”