Did you know Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is an official State of Illinois holiday?
There are a number of ways to observe Lincoln’s birthday in Central Illinois, and more specifically, Champaign County
Back in the day, Presidents Day wasn’t celebrated in the state of Illinois. No, in the Land of Lincoln, school was closed to honor Honest Abe’s birthday on February 12.
For the most part, that practice has gone the way of the ditto machine. According to a Chicago Tribune columnist, so many school districts had requested waivers for the day that the state dropped the requirement. (But there are still state offices that are closed – more on that below.)
Presidents Day — which is actually the observance of George Washington’s birthday — was declared a federal holiday in 1879 and moved to the third Monday in February in 1968.
Lincoln-related events planned for 2021
Looking for Lincoln in Champaign County
There are eight Looking for Lincoln signs in Champaign County marking his 20-year career as a circuit lawyer traveling through the area. The Museum of the Grand Prairie is doing a Facebook series that will feature these signs, other sightings of Lincoln, fun extra facts about Honest Abe, and give coordinates for a trip or two to see historic sites in the area. Follow along on the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page all month.
Abraham Lincoln FREE Craft Bag – Pickup Tuesday, February 9, 1 p.m.
Put on your mask and stop by the porch of Museum of the Grand Prairie to pick up your contactless FREE Abraham Lincoln Craft Bag! This bag includes 5 activities to help you celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day! Limit 2 per family, while supplies last. Fun for all ages!
Abraham Lincoln’s Farewell Address (Virtual) – Thursday, February 11, 1 p.m.
Join this group virtually, as Ms. Sandy reads Lincoln’s Farewell Speech from the popular exhibit, “Champaign County’s Lincoln.” This group will remember Lincoln on the day he left Springfield 160 years ago and headed to Washington D.C. to begin his presidency. Streamed live on the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page.
Stories with Mary Lincoln Todd (Virtual) – Friday, February 12, 10 a.m.
Virtually join this group on Abraham Lincoln’s 212th birthday with his First Lady, Mary Lincoln! Even though Abe won’t be there for his birthday, the group is going to celebrate and reminisce with Mrs. Lincoln herself as she shares some of her favorite Lincoln family stories. Mary Lincoln, as portrayed by Pam Brown (livingmarylincoln.com) will talk about her life as the wife of our 16th president, the antics of their children, and help us sing happy birthday to our 16th president. Streamed live on the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page.
What is closed?
The state of Illinois still “observes” Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday. In some pockets around the state — especially Springfield and Chicago — there are significant closings of state offices, courthouses and more.
But in Champaign-Urbana, the “celebration” is very muted. Courthouses are open; state offices appear to be open as well. (When in doubt, call. We haven’t scanned every state office in the area.)
So here’s our advice regarding what is closed on Lincoln’s Birthday, Friday, Feb. 12, 2021:
The DMV, aka the Illinois Secretary of State Facilities in Champaign, Rantoul, Monticello, and Tuscola (as well as the rest of the offices all over the state) will be closed on Friday, Feb. 12. In addition, these facilities will be closed on Saturday, Feb. 13, in honor of Washington’s birthday aka Presidents Day. (The Secretary of State Facilities are always closed on Mondays.)
So if you need a drivers license, a state ID, license plates, or any other vehicle-related services provided by the Illinois Secretary of State, plan that you might need to wait – or go before Friday.
Learning About Lincoln Right Here in Champaign-Urbana and Champaign County
While we will never be confused with Springfield, it can’t be denied that Champaign-Urbana played a major role in President Abraham Lincoln’s early life. More accurately, make that Champaign County and more specifically, Urbana. (Champaign wasn’t actually incorporated until 1860, the year before Lincoln left Illinois for the White House.)
Find the house where Lincoln slept in Urbana (404 W. Illinois St.). Abraham Lincoln stayed overnight as a guest in the house of Ezekiel Boyden, a two-time mayor of Urbana, on September 24, 1858. The house actually sat at a different address in those days.
Go on an Abraham Lincoln scavenger hunt. There are several Lincoln statues and monuments in Champaign-Urbana. The most famous ones are those in Carle Park (visible from Race Street) and the famous bust, located appropriately enough in Lincoln Hall on the University of Illinois campus. Also on campus, there’s a newer Lincoln statue outside the Alice Campbell Alumni Center off (appropriately enough) Lincoln Avenue in Urbana.
Check out the Looking for Lincoln signs in Champaign County. We mentioned earlier the eight “Looking for Lincoln” signs in Champaign County marking Lincoln’s 20-year career as a circuit lawyer traveling through the area. They are definitely worth checking out! Thanks to the Museum of the Grand Prairie’s Facebook series featuring these signs, you can learn more about other sightings of Lincoln, fun extra facts about Honest Abe, and learn the coordinates for a trip or two to see historic sites in the area. Follow along on the Museum of the Grand Prairie Facebook page all month.
Other Lincoln sites in Central Illinois include, of course, Springfield. We have a whole article about what to do in Springfield.
Take a virtual tour through the Lincoln home in Springfield. Now is a great time to “tour” this national site for free… virtually! The virtual tour is available by clicking here.
Take a field trip – Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield
With half off admission all of February AND free admission on Lincoln’s birthday, it’s a great time to plan a visit to this museum in Springfield. But make sure you plan ahead as the museum is using timed admission during COVID-19. Reserve your tickets (even the free ones) here.
Lincoln Log Cabin, Charleston
The Visitor’s Center at the Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston is currently closed due to COVID-19, but if you want to walk around the outdoor grounds, that appears to be an option. Get the scoop on the website here.