Five Patriotic Presidents Day Facts

Find out who -- and what -- we celebrate on Presidents Day, as well as some other fun facts.

Check out any calendar and you’ll see that the third Monday in February is designated as Presidents Day, a holiday most commonly associated with two of the (arguably) most important presidents of our country, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.

But really, only one of those is accurate. Read on to find out who — and what — we celebrate on Presidents Day, as well as some other fun facts:

1. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington share the same birth month. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, while Washington was born on February 22, 1732 — only some 10 days and 77 years apart. But while Honest Abe made some important contributions to our country’s history, the federal government never really saw him as Washington’s equal. Here’s why…

2. February 20 is a federal holiday honoring George Washington’s birthday. In 1885, Chester A. Arthur — coincidentally, one of the least memorable presidents — signed the bill that made the third Monday in February a federal holiday called George Washington’s Birthday.

People had already been celebrating Washington’s birthday since before his death — after all, he was a general and the first president. Yet so many people had qualms with Lincoln getting stiffed in the recognition department that the day became commonly known as Presidents Day and the celebration usually honored them both.

3. Yet Lincoln still comes out on top. A little research into presidential polls shows that Lincoln commonly tops the chart as the most popular and influential president in our country’s history. Washington’s rank ranges from the number two spot all the way down to number six. Want proof? Check out this MSNBC poll from 2009, in which historians ranked the presidents in order from greatest to least.

Or see this Gallup poll from only one year ago, which places Lincoln in the two slot, with Washington hanging out at number five. You can just imagine that somewhere the two of them are slugging it out over who was more important — the guy with the numbers or the guy with the day.

4. No matter who Presidents Day honors, it all comes down to the sales. Presidents Day has long since been known as a time when retailers roll out The Star-Spangled Banner and pay some guy to don a stovepipe hat or powdered wig to triumphantly announce that ALL STOCK MUST GO!

Ever since the 1980s, retailers have been using Presidents Day as an excuse to have great sales, in order to clear out merchandise to make room for spring and summer stock.

5. But what’s really the best way to celebrate Presidents Day? Other than running madcap through the department stores? Why not enjoy a cherry-related dessert — after all, that’s one of Washington’s biggest claims to fame.

As the story goes, a young Washington rebelliously chopped down a cherry tree but later fessed up to his father when asked about it because “he cannot tell a lie.” Much later this story was debunked as being a lie itself, a fable fabricated as a tribute to Washington’s legendary honesty (even though Lincoln once again trumps him with his own famous nickname).

Now excuse me, I’ve got to see a man in a fake beard about a living room set. Happy Presidents Day!

South End Patch