How Should We Celebrate Presidents’ Day?

By Sofie Robinson and Gia Bharadwaj

Every year, schools across the country close on the third Monday of February in recognition of Presidents’ Day, but few students or faculty truly acknowledge or celebrate the holiday. As time passes, the occasion has become more of an opportunity to purchase items on sale than an homage to the nation’s presidents. A lack of acknowledgment for Presidents’ Day raises questions: why is it not widely celebrated, and how, if at all, might one celebrate it? Ms. Holland, Upper School History teacher, and Aoife Beswick ’24 offered their differing perspectives on the holiday.

Though Ms. Holland does not have any Presidents’ Day traditions, she explained that the holiday “was originally meant to commemorate George Washington’s birthday, but at some point, it was changed to celebrate or honor all Presidents.” Ms. Holland does not know how the holiday was changed. “I am not sure why there isn’t more of an acknowledgment of the day,” she noted. Ms. Holland is one of many who do not have a special way to celebrate Presidents’ Day; however, she said that she “would be curious how others celebrate the day.”

On the other hand, Beswick’s family has maintained multiple annual traditions for the holiday. “We know it’s not a widely celebrated holiday, but we usually go skiing in Maine for the long weekend,” she explained, adding that her family also eats cherry pie in reference to George Washington’s apocryphal chopping of a cherry tree. However, Beswick believes that Presidents’ Day traditions should not be taken too far. “We have fun with the day, but we also want to make sure that we don’t glorify any president.” She added that others may not acknowledge Presidents’ Day because celebrating it might feel like an erasure of the flaws of America’s presidents. For example, many presidents have perpetuated or upheld racist systems, and it would be harmful to ignore this reality. Those who celebrate Presidents’ Day should do so with an awareness of America’s shortcomings.

Whether you celebrate the holiday with cherry pie or with a day in, Presidents’ Day offers an opportunity to reflect not only on the triumphs of the nation’s leaders but also on their flaws.