Amid all that has happened in recent weeks, Wednesday’s Inauguration Day may, in some ways, be unlike any other. Though, in some respects, it will be just like all previous ones.

The vice president will be sworn in first, then the president, followed by parades, ruffles and flourishes, as well as other pomp and circumstance that are ingrained in American politics.

But is there any reason to inaugurate a president on Jan. 20? Is there a particular justification for beginning a presidential term more than two months after an election?

In many countries, the whole process spans a much shorter period, a matter of weeks in some cases, or even a day in Great Britain. The U.S. created its 11 weeks or so of lame-duck presidency to give the incoming leader of the free world ample time to select a Cabinet and otherwise forge a deliberate and seamless transition to power.

In some inauguration years, such as this decidedly unusual one as well as the one that followed 2000's contested election, those few extra weeks have proved a useful buffer to unpredictability. Decades ago, the post-November transition period was even longer.

The Congress of the Confederation first set the date as March 4, 1789. Bad weather in an era of horse and buggy delayed President Washington’s inauguration by eight weeks, though the peril of winter wasn't the only reason. The slow and arduous process was created to accommodate travel to the nation’s capital, as well as the time needed to count and officially record the Electoral College results.

The schedule caused problems for Abraham Lincoln, who was unable to deal with the secessionist states right away after his predecessor, President Buchanan, failed to do anything about them.

When advances of the 20th century created new efficiencies, the lame-duck period was cut shorter. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president —for his second term — to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

The change in power officially occurs at noon that day, even if the swearing-in is delayed.

Inauguration Day is a public holiday in three states and Washington, D.C., largely to curb traffic problems.