Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents Day

Today is Presidents' Day, a public holiday originally marked as the celebration of George Washington's birthday but now a commemoration of all of America's presidents.

George Washington, the first president, was born on February 22, 1732, by our modern calendar. But in those old days his birthday would have fallen on February 11. Celebration of his birthday was first held in 1796, the final full year of his presidency. This was marked by public events including Birthnight Balls.

Soon afterwards in 1865, a year after Abraham Lincoln's assassination, some states began to also celebrate Lincoln's birthday on February 12.

By 1971 a law came into effect standardising the holiday, which is officially known as Washington's Birthday, to the third Monday in February. But there is variation among states as to how they honour the day. Some call it 'Washington and Lincoln Day' and in Massachusetts there is emphasis on presidents who have emanated from there, the most famous being John F. Kennedy and George HW Bush who was born there.

Alabama chooses to celebrate 'Washington and Jefferson Day'.

On the event of Washington's 200th birthday in 1932, America's first military medal for ordinary soldiers was revived. Named the Purple Heart, it is an award for soldiers injured in battle.

This year, George Bush senior chose it as the day to announce his support for Republican candidate John McCain.

His son, George W. Bush, is America's 42nd president, but is counted as serving for the 43rd presidency. This is because a man called Grover Cleveland was elected twice in non-consecutive terms in 1885 and 1893.

Today not all businesses take a public holiday but stores use it as one of their major sales days.

Here in San Fran, temperatures have been in the lower 50s with overcast skies for much of the day.

Happy President's Day!

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