Presidents' Day Trivia

The third Monday in February is designated in the United States as Washington's Birthday, more commonly known as Presidents' Day. This list looks at facts and traditions surrounding the celebration of this holiday.

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Not Officially Presidents' Day

Mount Rushmore National Monument
Mount Rushmore National Monument. Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

As stated in the introduction, the federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February is not officially called Presidents' Day. Instead, it is Washington's Birthday. There was an attempt in 1968 to officially name it Presidents' Day. However, this suggestion died in committee. Many states, however, choose to call their own celebration on this day "Presidents' Day."

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Washington's Birthday Celebrated During Washington's Lifetime

Portrait of George Washington
Portrait of George Washington. Public Domain

Many across the newly formed United States celebrated Washington's Birthday in the 17th century while George Washington was still alive. However, it wasn't until 1885 that Chester Arthur signed the bill that made it a federal holiday.

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Abraham Lincoln's Birthday is Not a Federal Holiday

Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States. Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USP6-2415-A DLC

Even though many states celebrate Abraham Lincoln's birthday concurrently with Washington's birthday, it is not a federally designated holiday though there have been several attempts to make it one. Many states at one time celebrated Lincoln's actual birthday. However, at this time only four continue to this day. 

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Cherries, Cherries, and More Cherries

Cherry Pie is a traditional dessert for Washington's Birthday.
Cherry Pie is a traditional dessert for celebrating Washington's Birthday. Getty Images / Westend61

Traditionally, many celebrated and continue to celebrate Washington's Birthday with desserts made with cherries. Cherry pie, cherry cake, bread made with cherries, or just a huge bowl of cherries are often enjoyed on this day. Of course, this relates to the apocryphal story that Washington would not tell a lie when asked if he cut down a cherry tree.

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Shopping and Sales

President's Day is traditionally a sale day in America.
President's Day is traditionally a sale day in America. Getty Images / Grady Coppell

One thing that many people connect with Presidents' Day is retail sales. In the 1980s, retailers began to use this holiday as a time to clear out their old stock in preparation for spring and summer. One wonders what George Washington would have thought about this celebration of his birthday.

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Reading of Washington's Farewell Address

Mount Vernon, George Washington's Home
Mount Vernon, George Washington's Home. Martin Kelly

On February 22nd of almost every year since 1888, Washington's Farewell Address has been read in the US Senate. While this does not happen on Presidents' Day, it is an annual celebration of Washington's Birthday that stems from 1862 when the Address was read as a way to boost morale during the Civil War. This address was and is so important because it warns of political factionalism, geographical sectionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation's affairs. Washington stressed the importance of national unity over sectional differences.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Presidents' Day Trivia." ThoughtCo, Aug. 8, 2016, Kelly, Martin. (2016, August 8). Presidents' Day Trivia. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Presidents' Day Trivia." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).