The February holiday, today, has become well-known for being a day in which
many stores, especially car dealers, hold sales. Until the late 1980s, corporate
businesses were universally closed on this day, the way they are on (for example)
Memorial Day or Christmas Day. With the late 1980s advertising push to rename
the holiday, more and more businesses are staying open on the holiday each year,
and, as on Veterans Day and Columbus Day, most delivery services outside of
the U.S. Postal Service now offer regular service on the day as well. Some public
transit systems have also gone to regular schedules on the day.
Different theories exist for this, one accepted reason being to make up for
the growing trend of corporations to close in observance of the Birthday of
Martin Luther King, Jr. However, when reviewing the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill
debate of 1968 in the Congressional Record, one notes that supporters of the
Bill were intent on moving federal holidays to Mondays to promote business.
Over time, as with many federal holidays, few Americans actually celebrate Washington's
Birthday, and it is mainly known as a day off from work or school, although
most non-governmental workers do not get the day off.
Consequently, some schools, which used to close for a single day for both Lincoln's
and Washington's birthday, now often close for the entire week (beginning with
the Monday holiday) as a "mid-winter recess". For example, the New
York City school district began doing so in the 1990s.
Washington's Birthday, the federal holiday, honors the accomplishments of the
man who has been referred to, for over two centuries, as "The Father of
his Country". Celebrated for his leadership in the founding of the nation,
he was the Electoral College's unanimous choice to become the first President;
he was seen as a unifying force for the new republic and set an example for
future holders of the office.
Washington's Birthday is also a tribute to the general who created the first
military badge of merit for the common soldier. Revived on Washington's 200th
birthday in 1932, the Purple Heart recognizes injuries received in battle. Like
Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Washington's Birthday weekend offers another
opportunity to honor the country's veterans.
Community celebrations often display a lengthy heritage. Historic Alexandria,
Virginia, hosts a month-long tribute, including the longest running George Washington
Birthday parade, while the community of Eustis, Florida, continues its annual
"George Fest" celebration begun in 1902.
At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County,
Virginia, and at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia, visitors are treated
to birthday celebrations throughout the federal holiday weekend and through
In Alabama, the third Monday in February commemorates the birthdays of both
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who was born in April).
In Arkansas, the third Monday in February is "George Washington's Birthday
and Daisy Gatson Bates Day," an official state holiday.
In New Mexico, President's Day, at least as a state government paid holiday,
is observed on the Friday following Thanksgiving.
In 2007, the country celebrated both Washington's 275th birthday and the 75th
anniversary of the rebirth of the Purple Heart medal.
Since 1862, there has been a tradition in the United States Senate that George
Washington's Farewell Address be read on his birthday. Citizens had asked that
this be done in light of the approaching Civil War. The annual tradition continues
with the reading of the address on or near Washington's Birthday.