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H/T to Iraq War News for this history of Presidents Day.
Today is Presidents' Day. Originally set to commemorate George Washington's birthday during the last full year of his Presidency (1796), the holiday was in full swing by the 19th century. When Washington was born, the calendar in use back then put his birthday on the 11th of February, so initially, some people celebrated on the 11th, and others on the 22nd.
Early celebratory events included "Birthnight Balls," speeches, receptions, and local tavern revelry.
Abraham Lincoln's birthday was first observed as a holiday in 1865, one year after his assassination, when Congress held a memorial address. While Washington's birthday was a Federal one, Lincoln's birthday (February 12th) did not become so until much later, although it was a holiday recognized by several states. In 1968, Washington's official birthday celebration was moved to the third Monday in February (rather than always on the 22nd), in order to make celebration of the day easier. This was combined with the shifting of other important dates in order to create a uniform system of Federal holiday Mondays. The law took effect in 1971.
Also in 1971, President Nixon proclaimed the 22nd as "Presidents' Day," a day to honor both Washington and Lincoln, as well as all past Presidents. Officially, though, the day is still known as Washington's Birthday at the Federal level (Nixon's proclamation was not an Executive Order) although the term "Presidents' Day" is the common term. A move to officially change the name stalled in Congressional committee.
Presidents' Day Links / News:
The Presidents of the United States (WhiteHouse.gov)
History of Presidents' Day (patriotism.org)
Presidents' Day - What does it mean? (About.com)
Presidents' Day (Wikipedia)
History of the Presidential Seal (FreedomHQ)
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