Austin | Dallas | Houston
In case you were wondering

Why we celebrate President's Day: A perhaps unnecessary primer

Austin Photo Set: News_Mike_presidents day_feb 2012_mount rushmore

Unless you were a history major in college or are really engaged with Presidential politics, you're like me and have no idea why you got this day off from work. (Or you didn't get the day off from work and you're upset — not because you hold strong observational tendencies but because everyone else is at home.)

It being an election year AND because I wanted to know why the Post Office was closed today, I say it's time we shed some light on this holiday that shows up every year but few know about. Let's give these Presidents some love this, their day of honoring.

Well, let me tell y'all something: As good as it is having the day off to continue recovering from the mistakes we made during Mardi Gras weekend, it used to be that Americans had two Presidential birthdays to celebrate in February: Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12 and George Washington on Feb. 22.

And what with this being the shortest month of the year and already packed with so many other celebrations, some high-ranking muckity-mucks decided to join these two great leaders' parties together so we'd only have to buy one big birthday cake. In 1968, The Uniform Monday Holidays Bill was passed, making the third Monday of every February a federal holiday in observance of Washington's Birthday.

But what about President Lincoln? Where's his slice of the giant White House-shaped birthday cake and the Marilyn impersonator singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President"?! Sure he might not be interested in it, but shouldn't he at least be given the option? He ended slavery for goodness sake!

Luckily, another goon-faced President later recognized this injustice and brought the term "President's Day" into popular vernacular in order to commemorate Honest Abe and all of the other former Presidents as well. (Let's just overlook the fact that Nixon was establishing a precedent that would eventually indict himself as well... Did I say "indict"? Well, good.)

So, essentially, President's Day is officially when we honor our first President's Birthday. And unofficially, because it's never that easy, we give a shout out to our freaky 16th President's birthday as well as an honorable mention to the 42 other badass Presidentials for keeping the party going all these years.

For better or for worse, these 44 men have kept this country moving forward. Some were pretty epic, like Lincoln and FDR. Some were... less so, like Harrison, Nixon and Taft. And we might have to put up with their shenanigans during the never-ending campaign seasons every four years. But that's a small voyeuristic price to pay for the chance to say your country has a democratic leader.

At least for one day, we can all recognize and even celebrate that we're all doing alright, all things considered. Now let's have cake. And don't shape it like a cherry tree. George HATES that joke.

P.S. Sorry about your bank being closed today and for all the traffic at the malls when you just wanted to get your MacBook repaired. But now at least you know who to thank for all this inconvenience: Richard Nixon.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Austin news, views + events

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address