What is President’s Day??

Happy President’s Day. Or Presidents’ Day or Presidents Day. If you’re lucky, you have the day off, but for many folks it’s just a Monday without mail. So what is this holiday?

Originally, February 22 was celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. And then, in 1968 the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed and several holidays were moved to Mondays so that federal employees could have three-day weekends (what would the father of our country think of that!?). Ironically, that means the latest we celebrate President’s Day is Feb. 21–one day shy of Washington’s actual birthday. But the third Monday in February–now called President’s Day–is still a celebration of Washington’s birthday.

So what about Honest Abe? Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) has never been a federal holiday, but it is a holiday in some states. In Indiana and New Mexico, Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated in November to extend the Thanksgiving Holiday. (Indiana also celebrates Washington’s birthday in December to extend the Christmas holiday.)

But no, President’s Day is not a combined celebration of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays. Legally, today is Washington’s birthday, just as it has been since President Chester A. Arthur signed the bill in 1885. President’s Day  is simply a popular name for the day that has come into common usage. And as to the proper punctuation–since it is just the one president we’re celebrating–I’d argue in favor of President’s Day.

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” –George Wasghington

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