Shannon Brady
Writer & Editor

Presidents’ Day is an annual federal holiday which takes place on the third Monday of every February, and honors everyone who has held the office of President of the United States. (See our previous article on Presidents’ Day for more information.) However, it is most strongly associated with the first president, George Washington, who played major roles in the founding of the country during and after the American Revolutionary War, and the sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, who led the Union during the American Civil War.

 It may seem simple enough, but it took quite a lot of time and effort to get Presidents’ Day established as it is today. Just pinning down when George Washington’s birthday really is isn’t as straightforward as one would think!

At the time of George Washington’s birth, the American colonies and Great Britain used the Julian calendar, making his birthday February 11, 1731. Twenty years later, Britain switched to the Gregorian calendar still used today, and the colonies followed suit. George Washington was one of the many colonists (including Benjamin Franklin) to change his birth date to suit the new calendar: to February 22, 1732, which we still recognize as official today.

After Washington’s death in 1799, the American public rushed to hold informal celebrations on the anniversaries of his birthday and of notable accomplishments of his life. In 1879, Congress declared February 22 a federal holiday in Washington’s honor. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act pushed the date back to the third Monday in February, giving many workers a three-day weekend. This act also officially made the holiday a dual celebration of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Today, Presidents’ Day is still celebrated on the third Monday of February, placing it between Lincoln’s birthday (February 12, 1809) and Washington’s birthday, which is the date that most people are talking about when they refer to the holiday.

However, the official name of the holiday used by the federal government is “Washington’s Birthday,” and many state observances of the holiday use different names as well. For instance, Colorado refers to the third Monday in February as “Washington-Lincoln Day”, Minnesota refers to it as “Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday,” and Alabama goes so far as to celebrate “George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday,” pushing Abraham Lincoln out of the festivities completely.

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday, so you can expect government buildings and schools to be closed today. Businesses may be closed or operating on limited hours, though several offer Presidents’ Day sales. Traffic should be normal. Check your area for special events or celebrations, particularly at museums or notable historical sites, being held in honor of the presidents.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at Stay safe and healthy!