FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Why Do We Celebrate Presidents’ Day? Lessons for Every Child
Chances are good that if you check your calendar, the third Monday of February is Presidents’ Day. Why do we celebrate Presidents’ Day? Is it just another patriotic day or a day to take off from school? Initially, the holiday began in 1885 to recognize George Washington, which is why it’s still called “Washington’s Birthday.” For that reason, it was set as February 22nd, which is Washington’s actual birthday. However, in an effort to honor all presidents, the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February.
Presidents’ Day Facts
- The Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, created by Congress in 1968, was meant to provide more “designated Monday” holidays. The idea behind this was to give people more three-day weekends and scale down absentees in the workforce. The bill passed in 1971, leading to Presidents’ Day being established as the third Monday in February. (Thanks, George Washington for the extra day off!)
- Technically speaking, the holiday isn’t even called Presidents’ Day. It’s actually still called Washington’s Birthday.
- Car dealerships, restaurants and many other stores like to take advantage of the holiday to promote their businesses. See how many “Presidents’ Day sale” ads you can find around town!
- That same Uniform Holiday Bill Congress passed was meant to pay respect to Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday is February 12th) and include another president.
- Presidents’ Day didn’t actually become an official holiday until Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law.
Presidents’ Day Activities
- Have your children or teens guess which state produced the most presidents. (You’ll probably want to clarify that by “produced” you mean states where presidents lived when elected, not where they were born.) Keep track of these guesses and write them down. Next, have your children do some research. You may want to split this activity into assigned tasks. Older children can do the research while younger children keep track with tally marks or a bar graph. When finished, compare the results to initial guesses. Did the data support their guesses?
- Your students can create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting two presidents. To start with, have them compare and contrast George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, since this holiday was largely about those two presidents historically speaking.
- Young children will enjoy this easy science activity. Squirt lemon juice into a bowl and add a few drops of water. Then add some old pennies (for Lincoln) and quarters (for Washington). After about five minutes, remove the coins and polish them. Can your children identify the president on each coin?
Presidents’ Day Unit Studies