Five things to know about President’s Day

By Patrick Hoff


1. What is President’s Day?
President’s Day was originally celebrated as George Washington’s birthday – in fact, it officially is still called Washington’s Birthday by the federal government. In 1968, Congress attempted to rename the holiday but the motion died in committee. Many states chose to adopt the name anyway, however, and it stuck. More than half of the 50 states now recognize the holiday as President’s Day and some even use it to celebrate other historical figures.
Washington’s Birthday was not made a federal holiday until 1885 when Chester Arthur signed the bill, but during Washington’s lifetime, his birthday was still celebrated. Originally, the holiday was celebrated every year on Feb. 22, Washington’s actual birthday, but as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act it was moved to the third Monday in February.

2. Why do we have the day off?
As a public institution, UMass gives students and faculty the day off of work and classes because Washington’s Birthday is a federal holiday. Also, there are no other holidays in February that would give us a long weekend and UMass feels bad for us sometimes.

3. What else is closed?
Banks, post offices, most government offices and many local businesses are closed on Washington’s Birthday. Other businesses have shortened hours, but big retailers, such as supermarkets, movie theaters and superstores, will remain open. The PVTA will reduce hours on many routes as well – check their website for updated information.

4. How do people celebrate?
A popular way to celebrate Washington’s Birthday is to eat cherry pie because of the famous legend of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. The United States Senate reads Washington’s Farewell Address every year on his birthday. Most people, however, just enjoy the day off or go shopping for sales.

5. Why are there so many sales?
Washington’s Birthday conveniently falls directly between winter and spring for retailers, so stores often use the holiday as a chance to clear out their winter stock for spring and summer. Retailers are happy because they have room on their shelves for new items, customers are happy because things are cheaper – everyone wins. Except maybe George Washington. Shopping for sales probably isn’t how he imagined people celebrating him.