American Holidays: Constitution Day

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11634

When a country is threatened by outside, or even internal, forces, citizens debate what their country stands for and loyalty might be tested. Discover a two-holiday holiday, and try to start your own!


Civics, United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Each year Constitution Day is combined with another holiday.

  • What other holiday takes place on Constitution Day?
  • Did you even know there was a Constitution Day?

girl thinking

The events leading up to the creation of Constitution Day prove that the voices of a few people can make a huge difference!

  • What do you think Constitution Day is and why it is celebrated?

Constitution Day did not start out as Constitution Day. At first, the holiday had little to do with the Constitution.

In 1939, New York newspaper owner William Randolph Hearst proposed a holiday to celebrate American citizenship.

William Randolph Hearst, 1910

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Hearst owned many newspapers and began printing this notion in his papers. Since his newspapers had many readers, the idea caught on!

Congress made the third Sunday in May a national holiday called "I Am an American Day." The day was used to celebrate being an American and to honor those who had recently become American citizens.

In the early 1940s, the date was used to inspire patriotism in the midst of the United States' involvement in World War II.

After the war, Olga T. Weber, a resident of Ohio, felt the holiday needed a change. She petitioned Congress to change the name of the holiday and move the holiday to the date the Constitution was signed.

It took Weber more than a year, but eventually, Congress created a new law changing "I Am an American Day" to "Citizenship Day" and moving the date to September 17.

Even though the date was moved to the date when the Constitution was signed, the holiday was still about celebrating American citizens.

girl with an American flag

Citizenship Day remained the only national holiday on September 17 until 2004.

In 1997, an ordinary citizen named Louise Leigh completed a course in constitutional history and fell in love with the Constitution.

  • What is the Constitution?

You probably have some idea, but let's review what it is before we talk about the holiday devoted to it!

Take some notes about what makes the Constitution so important as you watch The Constitution For Kids from Homeschool Pop:

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  • Do you agree with Louise Leigh's opinion, that the Constitution is worth celebrating?

Leigh wanted others to feel the same pride and respect for the Constitution that she felt, so she created a nonprofit organization called Constitution Day, Inc.

This group sought to educate Americans about the history and importance of the Constitution and called on Congress to make Constitution Day a national holiday.

In 2004, Leigh's wish was granted! September 17 was made Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to highlight the history of the Constitution, encourage patriotism, and celebrate new citizens of the United States.

Preamble to the Constitution

The following year, the Department of Education supported the shift to call September 17 Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

You've learned how the voices of a few people made Constitution Day a reality.

Next, move on to the Got It? section to learn more about the history of Constitution Day.

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