The Meaning of Presidents' Day? (Hint: It's Not a Cheaper Car)

You just have to look at the someecards pickings for Presidents' Day to see that the holiday has become totally bastardized. Now, I'm not much of a flag waver ... but I do remember when I was a kid and teachers talked about how the day signified the birthdays of two particular presidential greats: our first president, George Washington, of course, and Abraham Lincoln, our 16th. George was born on February 22, and Abe on February 12. In Illinois (where I grew up), we used to get both days off from school (yippee!) -- because you know, Illinois is the Land of Lincoln. But then ... I grew up and moved away from the Midwest only to find that the two celebrations were consolidated into one lumped-together holiday called Presidents' Day. Now, I'm sorry to say, it feels like a lot of us have forgotten that it had to do with either prez in the first place.


This Presidents' Day, we have cards like the one shown above (which I find really funny) and furniture sales to celebrate. I've heard people talk about how the holiday actually is meant to "celebrate the office of the President, our country, and its history." Uh ... no? That's called the Fourth of July, AKA Independence Day, people. Actually, the Fourth of July is probably the closest thing to that, but it really is meant to celebrate our independence from Great Britain.

What I want to know: Since when did the actual origin of a holiday and its intention become up for debate or individual interpretation? You can feel however you want about Presidents' Day emotionally, but that doesn't mean it isn't meant to be about Washington and Lincoln. 

The Washington Post actually ran an interesting, strong piece on this very argument back in 2007. The writer noted how the mid-February holiday was always Washington's, but "the campaigning of merchants (looking for another not-too-solemn holiday suitable for selling)" led to a "mushed-up and unofficial Presidents' Day designation ... meant to induce benign reflection on all ... men who have held the office."

The article goes on to make the comparison that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not called Civil Rights Leaders' Day for a reason! King was especially influential -- just as were Washington and Lincoln. I love me some Franklin D. Roosevelt, JFK, Clinton, and Obama, but Monday isn't -- and shouldn't -- be about them. It's about two of the greatest presidents in our nation's history. And when we all take the day off for a long weekend, we should realize that the lessons of their lives and presidencies are specifically what we're paying tribute to.

What does Presidents' Day mean to you?


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