Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February.
It was originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22, Washington’s actual day of birth, the holiday became known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.
Washington’s Birthday was an unofficial observance for most of the 1800s, but in the late 1870s it became a federal holiday. Senator Steven Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas was the first to propose the measure, and in 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia, but in 1885 it was expanded to the whole country.
Washington’s Birthday joined four other nationally recognized federal bank holidays, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving, and was the first to celebrate the life of an individual American. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signed into law in 1983, is the second.
Did you know??
President’s Day never falls on the actual birthday of any American president. Four chief executives,George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, were born in February, but their birthdays all come either too early or late to coincide with Presidents’ Day, which is always celebrated on the third Monday of the month.