More than just a day off

Weston Sleight

Presidents Day, which celebrates George Washington and other presidents’ birthdays, guarantees students at schools across the state of Utah a day off, but the holiday first began to honor the life and work of America’s first president.

“Alexander Hamilton said that a nation will build monuments to its heroes. So, we have Presidents Day because George Washington was our country’s first hero,” WSU History Professor Leah A. Murray said.

Presidents Day originated on George Washington’s birthday but has been adapted to celebrate some or all presidents. It was originally celebrated on Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22. In 1971, the holiday was moved to be on the third Monday of February, but not all states are in support of the long weekend.

“In 1879, Congress passed a law to remember Washington, and since 1971, Congress made a uniform holiday act, which makes it a Monday at some point in the time range,” Murray said.

Utah has chosen to observe Presidents Day in honor of both Lincoln and Washington specifically.

“President Lincoln and Washington are the only presidents that some states prefer to honor and celebrate,” said Murray.

The three day weekend gives many national workers a day off because they work for the government.

“Basically, remember what Hamilton said – we honor our heroes. The importance of this holiday is that it honors two of our nation’s greatest presidents: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,” Murray said.