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What Is President’s Day?

When is Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day?

Washington’s Birthday is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. At a state level, it may be called President’s Day, with an apostrophe that moves about from state to state.

Though it may be technically incorrect, the federal holiday is often colloquially referred to as Presidents’ Day. The Associated Press Stylebook, most newspapers and some magazines use the form “President’s Day” as an alternate rendering of “Washington’s Birthday”. The name Presidents’ Day is also the more common version of the name when used internationally.

This confusion as to the name is that despite its status as a federal holiday, states are free to name this holiday as they wish or even whether or not it is observed as a public holiday in that state.


While the day might be a holiday at a state level, whether or not a private company is likely to observe the day as a holiday depends on the nationwide approach to public holidays in that company.

Most government offices and public schools will be closed and it is a postal holiday, so there will be no mail deliveries on President’s Day.

History of Presidents’ Day

The original version of the holiday was in commemoration of George Washington’s birthday in 1796 (the last full year of his presidency). Washington, according to the calendar that has been used since at least the mid-18th century, was born on February 22nd 1732. According to the old style calendar in use back then, however, he was born on February 11th. In 1796, many Americans celebrated his birthday on the 22nd while others marked the occasion on the 11th instead.

By the early 19th century, Washington’s Birthday had taken firm root in the American experience as a bona fide national holiday. Its traditions included Birthnight Balls in various regions, speeches, and receptions given by prominent public figures, and a lot of revelry in taverns throughout the land.

President Chester Alan Arthur was the first to designate Washington’s original birth date as a national holiday in 1885.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln, another revered president and fellow February baby (born on the 12th of the month). The first formal observance of his birthday took place in 1865, the year after his assassination when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address. While Lincoln’s Birthday did not become a federal holiday like George Washington’s, it did become a legal holiday in several states.

In 1968, legislation (HR 15951) was enacted that affected several federal holidays. One of these was Washington’s Birthday, the observation of which was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd. This act, which took effect in 1971, was designed to simplify the yearly calendar of holidays and give federal employees some standard three-day weekends in the process.

An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act suggested renaming the federal holiday as “Presidents’ Day” to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. This proposal failed in committee and on 28 June 1968, the bill was voted on and signed into law, keeping the name “Washington’s Birthday”.

Presidents’ Day is a national holiday in the United States, which occurs annually on the third Monday in February to honor the country’s presidents. The establishment of the day in 1885 was aimed at recognizing the first president of the country, George Washington. Initially, the celebration of the holiday used to take place on February 22, the actual birthday of George Washington. Later, in 1971, the attempt to make three-day weekends for workers in the country lead to the development of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which gave the holiday the popular name “President’s Day” to be celebrated the third Monday in February.


Presidents’ Day celebrations began after the death of the first US president in 1799. Washington was an important person in the history of America during those times, and the national celebration was by the events such as the 1832 birthday and the Washington Monument construction in 1848. The observance of George Washington’s birthday became national observance by the late 1870s. The first person to propose the official celebration was Senator Steven Wallace and with the signature of President Rutherford B. Hayes, it was enforced in 1879.

Uniform Monday Holiday Act

The Act is a measure that Congress suggested in the late 1960s to change Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day. The law aimed at transforming the celebration of several national holidays from particular dates to a run of preset Mondays. Many people saw it as a way of creating more three-day weekends for public workers, and they believed that ensuring that the holidays coincide on the same weekdays would minimize absenteeism of employees. The bill received support from various sectors such as labor unions and private sectors as they saw it as a reliable way to strengthen retail trades on top of cheapening the meaning of the holidays.

The Act also enforced the joining of birthday celebrations for Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. The birthday celebration for Abraham Lincoln had been a public holiday in some regions such as Illinois. Therefore, joining the two days of celebration would mean recognizing the two most popular statespersons of America. Thus, the proponents of the Act got enough support and McClory (one of the major advocates) gave the idea of renaming the holiday as President’s Day. Uniform Monday Holiday Act became effective in 1971 after President Richard Nixon gave a policymaking order for the enactment. On top of shifting Washington’s day from its fixed date, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day were also changed from their initially designated dates.

Public Life On President’s Day

On Presidents’ Day, several businesses run normally because many stores hold sales. Many delivery services are active during this day, except for the Post Office delivery. The operations of the public transit systems usually follow regular schedules. However, schools close for that week as students break for mid-winter holiday. Some government sources indicate that Indiana observes George Washington’s birthday with a day off in December.


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