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Lincoln’s Birthday

Derrion Williams

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Lincoln’s Birthday is a legal public holiday in, some states, observed on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 1809. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and New York observe the holiday. New Jersey observed the holiday until September 29, 2008 when the state enacted The Public Employee Pension and Benefits Reform Act of 2008, which eliminated the holiday.In other states, Lincoln’s birthday is not celebrated separately, as a stand-alone holiday. Instead Lincoln’s Birthday is combined with a celebration of President George Washington’s birthday (also in February) and celebrated either as Washington’s Birthday or as President’s Day.

The earliest known observance of Lincoln’s birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York, in 1874. Julius Francis, a Buffalo druggist, made it his life’s mission to honor the slain president. He repeatedly petitioned Congress to establish Lincoln’s birthday as a legal holiday. The day is marked by traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky, and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The latter has been the site of a ceremony ever since the Memorial was dedicated. Since that event in 1922, observances continue to be organized by the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee and by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS).

On February 12, 2009, the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial commemorated Lincoln’s 200th birthday in grand fashion. An extended ceremony, organized by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission (ALBC) and with help from MOLLUS, featured musical performances from four-time Grammy-nominated singer Michael Feinstein and the U.S. Marine Corps. Band.

As part of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the U.S. Mint released four new Lincoln cents. The commemorative coins have new designs on the reverse showing stages of his life. The first went into circulation on September 12, 2009. The standard portrait of Lincoln’s head remains on the front. The new designs include a log cabin representing his birthplace, Lincoln as a young man reading while sitting on a log that he was taking a break from splitting, Lincoln as a state legislator in front of the Illinois Capitol, and the partially built dome of the U.S. Capitol.

A wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States, a custom also carried out at the grave sites of all deceased U.S. presidents on their birthdays. Lincoln’s tomb is in Springfield, Illinois.

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Lincoln’s Birthday