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President’s Day

“Presidents Day” takes place the third Monday in February. The holiday stems from the original custom of celebrating the birthday of sixteenth president Abraham Lincoln on February 12, and that of first president George Washington on February 22. Since these two birthdays are less than two weeks apart, a formal national “Presidents Day” holiday now celebrates both at once, although some states still celebrate them individually. Washington is revered in the United States because of his role in the foundation of the republic, Lincoln because of his stewardship of the republic during its greatest crisis, the Civil War of 1861-1865.

The Monday of Presidents Day creates a “three-day weekend.” Banks and government offices are closed. Stores and shopping centers conduct highly publicized sales on this day, frequently using advertising materials that employ the images of Washington, Lincoln or both. The Presidents Day weekend hence becomes the first real opportunity for Americans to flex their shopping muscles after the Christmas holiday season. Americans do not otherwise celebrate this day by exchanging cards or gifts.

In American culture, no other past presidents are as highly regarded as Washington and Lincoln to the extent that their birthdays are celebrated. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, come closest to this stature, however. The American media never fails to note the November 22 anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

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