Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents Day/Washington's Birthday!

By Sharon R. Miles

The third Monday in February marks the federal holiday officially titled, “Washington’s Birthday,” but this holiday is more commonly known as Presidents Day.

Originally started in 1880 for D.C.’s government offices, the holiday grew in 1885 to encompass all federal offices. Since it was the very first federal holiday to acknowledge an American, the holiday was originally celebrated on our first President’s birthday, February 22. However, in 1971 the holiday was moved to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

After the Washington’s Birthday holiday was implemented and as time went on, a strong interest in honoring more Presidents developed. As such, in 1951, a committee formed, “President’s Day National Committee,” with the intent of creating a day to honor the Presidential Office, instead of honoring only one President in particular. Much discussion centered on naming the original inauguration day of March 4 Presidents Day or naming Lincoln’s birthday of February 12 Presidents Day. During this time, some states did declare these days as Presidents Day, Lincoln Day, or even Washington and Lincoln Day, in addition to celebrating the federal holiday of Washington’s Birthday. Eventually, with these holidays falling so close together, the original and official federal holiday of Washington’s Birthday, became more popularly known as Presidents Day.

Image: The signed Uniform Monday Holiday Act from the National Archives (clik to enlarge).