Inauguration Day 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Inauguration Day

January 11, 2021
Inauguration Day 2017

What happens on Inauguration Day? What does “inauguration” mean? How do we “swear in” a president? Here are some inauguration fun facts.

When Is Inauguration Day?

Inauguration Day is held on January 20 in the year following a presidential election. In 2021, Inauguration Day takes place on Wednesday, January 20. It will mark the 59th Presidential Inauguration in American history, a tradition begun in on April 30, 1789, by George Washington, the first U.S. president.

The Constitution originally fixed March 4 (the anniversary of the effective date of the Constitution in 1789) as Inauguration Day. That’s about four months after the Election Day (which occurs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November).

Inauguration Day was moved to January 20, with the Oath of Office to be administered at noon, when Congress ratified the 20th constitutional amendment in 1933. Reasons cited included the unpredictability of March weather, improved roads, and the desire to reduce the time that the previous president remains in office as a “lame duck.”

The first president to be inaugurated on January 20 was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937, when he took office for the second of his four terms.

On six occasions, the death or resignation of a president required his successor to be sworn in immediately, so the oaths were taken as quickly as possible. Presidents William Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford had no formal Inauguration Days.

What Number President is Joe Biden?

Joe Biden will be the 46th U.S. president.

What Does “Inauguration” Mean?

The word “inauguration” means “beginning,” and comes from the ancient practice of augury, which means predicting the future. The day marks the start of a president’s term in office.

Where Does Inauguration Day Take Place?

The Presidential Inauguration takes place in Washington, D.C., on the western side of the U.S. Capitol Building.

It has been conducted there since 1801, when Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated. The first Inauguration Day took place in New York City, which was serving as the U.S. capital in 1789. The inaugurals of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (the second time) happened in Philadelphia.

What Happens on Inauguration Day?

The most important event on Inauguration Day—and the only event required by the U.S. Constitution—is the swearing in of the new president at noon. With a recitation of the Oath of Office, the president-elect becomes the president and commander in chief.

What Is the Oath of Office?

The exact words of the Oath of Office are: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Who Administers the Oath of Office?

The Oath of Office is usually administered by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. (It has been the practice since 1797.)

Calvin Coolidge’s second Oath was administered by the only Chief Justice who was a former President, William Howard Taft.

Has a Woman Ever Administered the Oath of Office?

The only woman to administer the Oath was Federal District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes. She was the closest Federal judge to the site of the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson—Air Force One, which was parked at Love Field—after Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

Can a Family Member Administer the Oath of Office?

Yes, under unusual circumstances. After the death of President Warren G. Harding, the oath was administered by the light of a kerosene lantern to Calvin Coolidge by his father, John Calvin Coolidge, Sr., a notary public in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.

Has the Oath of Office Ever Changed?

So far, all presidents except Franklin Pierce have chosen to “swear” rather than “affirm.” At Barack Obama’s first Inauguration Day, in 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled over the wording, and the two men decided to do it over again the next day in the White House.

What Book Do Presidents Put Their Hand on for the Oath of Office?

Presidents usually take the Oath of Office with their left hand on a Bible, but that is not required by the Constitution. Franklin Pierce and John Quincy Adams swore their oaths on law books. Lyndon Johnson used a Catholic missal found on the airplane in Dallas. Theodore Roosevelt used no book at all. And Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H. W. Bush, and Barack Obama used more than one Bible.

What Is the Inaugural Address?

The Inaugural Address is a speech by the recently inaugurated president. In earlier days, the address was given before the newly elected president took the Oath of Office, but in 1897, William McKinley waited until after he was sworn in to deliver his speech, and all the presidents since then have done the same.

What Are the Shortest and Longest Presidential Inaugural Addresses?

George Washington’s second inaugural address was 135 words long, by far the shortest in history. (Despite his reputation for taciturnity, “Silent Cal” Coolidge gave a speech of more than 4,000 words in 1925.)

The longest Inaugural Address was more than 8,000 words long and given by William Henry Harrison in 1841. Harrison delivered it in an hour and 45 minutes outdoors in freezing weather. (Afterward, Harrison shook hands with admirers for three hours. He caught a cold, which became pneumonia, and then, a month after the ceremony, he died.)

What Are Some Famous Lines from Inauguration Day Addresses?

• Abraham Lincoln’s address called for “charity for all” and “malice towards none” when the Civil War ended.

• Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

• John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

What Else Happens on Inauguration Day?

After the oath and the address comes the celebrating: Typically, the newly inaugurated president reviews a parade and attends a lot of parties. In 2021, things will be slightly different: the parade will be virtual and feature performances from around the country.


How Can Citizens Celebrate Inauguration Day?

The U.S. flag can be flown on all days, but it should be flown on Inauguration Day. Learn more about how to display the U.S. flag.


How Have Presidential Inauguration Day Events Changed Over the Years?

The way we celebrate the beginning of a new Presidency has grown in size, pomp, and expense.

  • George Washington was invited to a ball a week after his 1789 inauguration.
  • The first official Inaugural Ball took place in 1809 at Long’s Hotel in Washington, after the first inauguration of James Madison. First Lady Dolley Madison was the hostess, and tickets cost $4.
  • Since then, the number of balls has multiplied, with one exception: Woodrow Wilson did not like to dance, so his inauguration had no ball.


What Happens if Inauguration Day Is on a Sunday?

In years when Inauguration Day falls on a Sunday, the new president is sworn in at a private ceremony on January 20, and the public ceremony is postponed to January 21.

Who Pays for the Inauguration Day Events?

Taxpayers pay only for the swearing-in ceremony. The cost of all that follows it is borne by private donors.

Has There Been Any Unusual Weather on Inauguration Day?

Bad weather has not only disrupted several inaugurations, it was responsible for the deaths of one President and one First Lady.

  • Bad weather and bad roads delayed Washington’s first inauguration until April 30, 1789.
  • In 1841, Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history (1 hour, 45 minutes) outdoors in freezing weather, developed pneumonia, and died one month later.
  • In 1853, at the snowy inauguration of President Pierce, outgoing First Lady Abigail Fillmore also caught a cold that led to pneumonia and death a few weeks later.
  • Probably the worst weather occurred during the 1909 inauguration of President Taft. Powerful winds and a 10-inch snowfall forced the ceremony indoors and thousands of workers shoveled 58,000 tons of snow off the parade route. The Old Farmer’s Almanac had predicted “Strenuous winds and perhaps snow.”

What’s the Weather Forecast for Inauguration Day 2021?

Check the weather for Washington, D.C., or any U.S. city with our forecasts! See 7-day weather if the day is near or see long range weather for our predictions.

Inauguration Day Recipes

Looking to celebrate Inauguration Day? Add one or two of these Presidential treats to your menu!

What fun fact above did you find most interesting? We welcome your comments below.

Yeda Arscott's Question

I, actually, had the same question. 46th President coming up...yet 59 Inaugurations.

Very interested in the answer.


The Editors's picture

See our response below!

Fun fact I liked

The 1 special item put on the menu for each President's liking. That was an interesting fun fact.

Question: why 59th ceremony but 46th president?

Why don't the number of presidential inauguration ceremonies align with the number of presidents? Aren't two-term presidents counted twice?


The Editors's picture

When counting the number of inaugurations, two-term presidents are indeed counted twice (or three times, in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s case), since the president is sworn in for each term that they serve. The number does not include presidents who were not officially elected and who were sworn in without an official inauguration ceremony, such as Lyndon B. Johnson, who was sworn in after the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963. However, when Lyndon B. Johnson was actually elected president in 1964, he did have an official inauguration ceremony, which is counted. Therefore, LBJ served as president twice, but only had one inauguration ceremony.

Additionally, when counting the number of presidents, two-term presidents are not counted twice. (However, if the president served two terms that were not consecutive, then that person is counted twice. This is the case with Grover Cleveland, who served as the 22nd and 24th president.) This is why the number of inauguration ceremonies exceeds the number of presidents!

First Offical Inaugural Ball

$4 to attend the 1809 Inaugural Ball? We may think of that as cheap today, but man was that expensive then. By mid century that would be a weeks pay for some, and a month's for others. Be about like making $400 a week now. 1809 it was probably closer to making $800 to $1000 a week now.

How Many Presidents?

I think that it is important to note that while Donald Trump will serve in the 45th presidency, he will be only the 44th president. A "presidency" is the period of time between when an individual person is sworn into office and when that individual leaves office. Grover Cleveland served two terms, but they were not consecutive; therefore he served during two separate presidencies. If his two terms had been consecutive, then that would count as only one presidency. We are on the verge of the 45th presidency, but Trump will be only the 44th president.

44 or 45...?

The Editors's picture

You make an interesting and, to some ways of thinking (counting!), accurate point, and we appreciate your bringing it (back) to our attention, as we considered the matter as you describe it. However, the numerous web sites, including .gov’s, that we used to compile and check this information list Barack Obama as the 44th president and Donald Trump as the 45th president, so we went with it. Thank you for this clarification.

Inauguration Day Facts

Thank-you for sharing these facts. And the recipes!! Although I will not be watching this year's event and am very concerned about our "State of the Union" it is often helpful to look back at the challenges that have gone before. I think that can give us hope that this is a strong, resourceful country and if we can learn to stand together we can solve our problems.