The President's Day Truth: No Patriots, Just Purses

george washingtonIt's February 21. Kids are off school, the sale circulars are thick, and the postman won't be carting a bundle of bills to your doorstep. So let's hear it for the President's Day holiday, right? Wrong!

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal government office that touts itself as responsible for "recruiting, retaining and honoring a world-class force to serve the American people," publishes the official "federal holidays" list for civil service employees. And on the OPM list for 2011, there's no Presidents Day to be found.


According to the OPM, February 21 this year is Washington's Birthday. No mention of President Lincoln. Or the other dead guys who made the nation what it is. All they get is a little asterisk:

This holiday is designated as "Washington’s Birthday" in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees.

So how did Lincoln sneak in there?

President Nixon is traditionally blamed for wanting a piece of the Washington's action and making the change. His library is celebrating the day with an all-inclusive chance for visitors to "meet" Presidents Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson and Roosevelt today, after all.

But we've finally found a spot to cut Nixon some slack. Tricky Dick signed an executive order in February 1971, to add Columbus Day to the federal holiday list and designate Monday observances for five of the nine holidays. Washington's Birthday remained on the list AS Washington's Birthday.

Congress threw out a little extra love for the first president and his wooden chompers with the Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001, again protecting the holiday's name as "Washington's Birthday," but giving the current president leave to give special recognition to Lincoln's immense role in American history.

So who do we blame for the farce today? Take your pick, but I'm going with the same folks who have sold us on the need to buy cards and chocolate on Valentine's Day, flowers on Mother's day and ties on Father's Day -- the marketers. Going out to spend on the President's Day sales somehow sounds more patriotic than "Washington's Birthday," doesn't it? We're helping the entire country! Memorializing a line of our leaders with that pair of 50 percent off jeans.

After all, according to the OPM (emphasis mine):

Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.

What do you think, would you get into the holiday if it were just about a guy who died in 1799?


Image via Joye~/Flickr

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