By Earle Cornelius for Lancaster Online
On Dec. 25, 1789, the U.S Congress met in session. The nation was without a president — the country’s first national election, which began earlier that month, would not conclude until January. While some residents in the nascent United States marked the day as Christmas, for most Americans it was just a Friday in December.
That changed almost 150 years ago when President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation making Christmas a federal holiday in the District of Columbia. That gave federal workers Christmas Day off. The legislation, signed into law on June 28, 1870, also made New Year’s Day and July 4 federal holidays as well as Thanksgiving, although the date of that holiday had yet to be determined.