“Happy Birthday, Mr. President”: Every year in February, Americans commemorate their most popular Commanders-in-Chief – first and foremost, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. All other presidents, however, can also feel honored on this special occasion.

Presidents Day is accompanied by many events like parades, historical reenactments and festivities that serve to keep the memory of past presidents alive. In addition, shops all over the country offer amazing bargains during their Presidents Day Sales.

In this article, you will learn more about the origins of Presidents Day, which places are perfect for a family trip, and what you should know about opening hours on this holiday.

Presidents Day – History and Meaning

The history of this holiday goes back to the first US President George Washington, who was born on February 22 1732. Even during his lifetime, this American leader enjoyed almost religious veneration. Thus, it came as no surprise when his birthday was declared a federal holiday in the year 1879, making George Washington the first historical person with his own day of remembrance.

It should, however, take almost 100 years until this event turned into Presidents Day as we know it today. The date, in particular, was a matter of debate: On February 12, another famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, was born, and there were initiatives to combine both birthdays to one holiday.

This happened through the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday. Under Richard Nixon, Washington’s Birthday was renamed Presidents Day – a reminder that not only Washington and Lincoln, but all US Presidents were to be honored on this day. The name soon caught on, especially when business owners started using it to advertise their special sales and offers.

However, not all Americans were happy about the “new” Presidents Day. Some did not like the idea of honoring larger-than-life figures like Washington and Lincoln alongside less popular presidents. At the moment, though, there are no plans in the USA to change this holiday.

Presidents Day – Festivities

Just like Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Presidents Day is accompanied by a number of patriotic festivities – among them:

Parades and Reenactments

Festive parades are a main element of Presidents Day. The oldest parade takes place in Alexandra, Virginia – the birthplace of George Washington. At this event, you can even see the famous US President as he rides by on a horse carriage. Another worthwhile-spot is Washington’s Birthplace in Mount Vernon, where visitors can see historical uniforms and learn more about this famous figure on Presidents Day.

Washington’s birthday is also celebrated in Eustis, Florida. Here, you can enjoy concerts, parades, a funfair and firework at the famous GeorgeFest. Of course, the long weekend lends itself to outdoor activities in the Sunshine State: among them, football games, the Miami International Boat Show, and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

Family Celebrations

Even though Presidents Day is not observed as broadly as Thanksgiving and Christmas, many Americans use the day-off to spend time with their families. Trips to historical sites like the Washington Monument or Mount Rushmore are popular on this day, and patriotic families might read “Washington’s Farewell Address”, the President’s final speech to his countrymen. Others send family letters, for example, in the form of Presidents Day E-Cards. There is even a typical Presidents Day dish: cherry pie, the favorite dessert of George Washington

Presidents Day Sales

Most stores are open on Presidents Day. And not only that: They also attract customers with a variety of special offers. Mattresses, for example, can be had for a fraction of the price – just like household wares and kitchen appliances. Depending on the store, you can enjoy discounts of up to 60 %. Are you looking for clothes, shoes or toys? Then, we recommend Kohl´s Presidents Day Sales, one of the most famous shopping events of its kind. At the retail giant Walmart, customers get 30 % off selected items, and Best Buy is the ideal place for fairly-priced electronics. By the way: You can take your time, as most stores operate with longer hours on this holiday. Or just shop from the comfort of your home and choose the best offers online.

In addition, Presidents Day is a popular day for car sales. Many dealerships offer discounts on automobiles to boost sales at the beginning of the year – and no: A “Lincoln” is not the only brand you can purchase on Presidents Day…

Presidents Day – Date

Presidents Day takes place on the third Monday in February. This date was set by the US government and is valid in all states. Depending on the year, the holiday falls between February 15 und February 21.

Here are some Presidents Day dates for past and future years:

  • Presidents Day 2020: February 17
  • Presidents Day 2021: February 15
  • Presidents Day 2022: February 21
  • Presidents Day 2023: February 20
  • Presidents Day 2024: February 19.

Fun Fact: As we said, Presidents Day is dedicated to all Presidents – which can even be seen in the date. Even though it is a movable holiday, Presidents Day never falls on the birthday of a particular Commander-in-Chief. George Washington, for example, was born on February 22 – one day too late – while Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is four days too early.

Presidents Day – Opening Hours

Presidents Day is a federal holiday, which means that government employees get this day off and government offices are closed. The same applies to post offices, banks and the stock exchange. Many schools do not have lessons on that day– or replace them with American history projects. Shops and restaurants can decide for themselves whether they want to open. Most of them, however, celebrate the fact that customers have a day-off with special sales and offers.

Of course, you can use public transport on Presidents Day. Most bus and train lines follow their Saturday schedule and operate more frequently than on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Motorists should note that many Americans visit their families on the long Presidents Day weekend. This often leads to traffic jams on the highways.

Presidents Day – best Movies

Not all states feature outdoor-weather in February – so what better way to celebrate Presidents Day than with a patriotic movie night at home?

Luckily, there are a lot of flicks for you to choose from. If you want to learn more about the life of Abraham Lincoln, we can recommend the Spielberg movie “Lincoln” released in 2012. Patriotic action fans cannot go wrong with “Air Force One”, and if you want to laugh and be scared at the same time, you should watch the horror comedy “Presidents Day”. The thriller “The Ides of March” shows the dark side of the US presidency, while “Jackie” pays tribute to the wife of John F. Kennedy – one of the most beloved First Ladies in history.

Presidents Day FAQ – Frequently asked Questions

What is Presidents Day?

Originally, Presidents Day dates back to George Washington’s birthday. Today, however, it is celebrated in honor of all Presidents. As a federal holiday, it is observed in all states of the US.

When is Presidents Day?

The official date of Presidents Day is the third Monday in February. This means that, depending on the year, it takes place between the 15th and 21st day of this month.

What is closed on Presidents Day?

On Presidents Day, all non-essential government buildings, banks, post offices and many schools are closed. Most restaurants and stores stay open, though.

What can I do on Presidents Day?

Traditionally, Presidents Day is celebrated with parades and historical customers. Other festivities include fireworks and events at memorial sites and museums.

When do Presidents Day Sales start?

On Presidents Day and the days leading up to it, many stores in the USA offer special sales. Some of these start as early as 2 weeks before the holiday and are also available online.