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Elmhurst City Council Meeting Postponed—and a Lot More Info About the Confusing Presidents Day Holiday

Who we celebrate and why.

What exactly is the purpose of Presidents Day?

It's not just about weekend sales and holidays from school, although it is important to note the following:

  • The Union Pacific West Line will operate on a normal schedule.
  • Post offices, including the Elmhurst location at 154 Park Avenue, will be closed; there will be no regular mail delivery.
  • All public and private schools in Elmhurst are closed.
  • Elmhurst City Hall, 209 N. York St., will operate during its regular business hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., however the regular Elmhurst City Council meeting will be moved from Monday to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19.
  • Presidents Day does not create a one-day delay in garbage pickup.
  • Banks have the option to close.
  • Financial and stock markets will be closed Monday.
  • And, most importantly, Monday is a holiday for Patch editors.

The history of the holiday we know as Presidents Day is complex and detailed.

Some may remember when both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington's birthdays were holidays. In more recent years, though, the holiday has been consolidated into a single day, celebrated on the third Monday in February.

However, the holiday bears only the name of George Washington in state and federal law. Washington’s birthday first was officially celebrated on Feb. 22, 1880. It was one of a growing list of federal holidays authorized by Congress a year earlier. Although it originally applying only to federal workers in Washington, D.C., observance expanded to include all federal workers in 1885.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act took Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day and moved them to specific Mondays in the year from their previous date-specific observances. Since then, the U.S. designates the third Monday in February the day to observe Washington’s Birthday.

And just in case all of this wasn't complex enough, Ancestry Magazine states Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731, not Feb. 22, 1732, under the Julian calendar in use at the time. The British Empire didn’t switch to our current Gregorian calendar until 1752.

So where did all this confusion come from? It seems to have started with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. An early draft of the bill changed Washington’s birthday to Presidents Day, but that language changed back after public outcry.

Shortly after the Act took effect, erroneous newspaper reports quoted a proclamation in which President Richard Nixon stated all presidents should be honored on the third Monday of February, but no such proclamation exists. Popular usage of the Presidents Day moniker evolved over the years, especially in retail advertising, to replace Washington’s Birthday.

Throw in the hodgepodge of state holidays celebrating Lincoln, Washington, or both and it is easy to forget the roots of this federal holiday.

Have the day off? How do you plan on spending it? Tell us in the comments.

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Jim Court February 19, 2013 at 04:17 AM
Maybe we should have a "residents" day. We have had many very flawed Presidents but we have many amazing residents.

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