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Presidents Day: A Brief History for Kids

George Washington

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

While Presidents Day has come to be best known for car and mattress sales, not to mention a day off from school, how much do your kids know about the actual historical significance of the day?

Always observed on the third Monday of February, George Washington’s birthday is a federal holiday that has been celebrated since 1880 and has come to be known as Presidents Day. It is the first official United States holiday to celebrate an individual person and was originally on Washington’s actual birthday — February 22nd — but was changed to the current schedule 40 years ago.

Washington’s birthday was designated a holiday to honor our nation’s first president, also known as “The Father of his Country.” He was regarded as a unifying force for the new republic and set an example of future holders of the office.

Presidents Day is also a time in which the Purple Heart medal — emblazoned with an image of George Washington — is awarded to U.S. soldiers hurt in the line of duty. And since 1862, the United State Senate has traditionally read George Washington’s Farewell Address on his birthday, which was originally done when the Civil War was imminent.

While Presidents Day is observed in various ways across the country, in Washington DC, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will celebrate the presidents tomorrow with family-friendly crafts, performances and a scavenger hunt. George Washington himself will be on hand at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia for a birthday surprise party tomorrow through Monday. And there will be a parade in the first president’s honor in Old Town Alexandria on Monday, which will be the culmination of a weekend-long celebration of his birthday.

How much do your kids know about presidential history?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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