It's not 'President's Day.' It's Washington's Birthday

Rick Moran
According to the government, today is a holiday observing George Washington's birthday. It is not "President's Day." There is no such holiday on the federal calendar.

Snopes clears up the confusion:

However, the seeds of confusion were sown in 1968 with the passage of a piece of legislation known as Uniform Holidays Bill, intended to create more three-day weekends for federal employees by moving the observance of three existing federal holidays (Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day) from fixed calendar dates to designated Mondays, and by establishing Columbus Day, also to be observed on a Monday, as a new federal holiday. (Subsequent legislation enacted several years later eventually restored the observance of Veterans Day to November 11.) Under this act, from 1971 onwards the observance date of Washington's Birthday would be relocated from February 22 to the third Monday in February. (Oddly enough, this change guaranteed that Washington's Birthday would never again be celebrated on his "actual" birthday of February 22, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21.)

So far, so good. The date of observance of Washington's Birthday might have been tinkered with a bit, but the holiday was still undeniably "Washington's Birthday." So what happened to Lincoln's Birthday? And whence came "Presidents' Day"?

The concept of combining Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays into one holiday called "President's Day" was floated as far back as the early 1950s, as the New York Times noted in 1968:

The first uniform Monday holiday plan was promulgated by NATO [the National Association of Travel Organizations] in the early 1950's. It called for combining Washington's and Lincoln's Birthdays into a single President's Day, to be celebrated the third Monday in February, and shifting Memorial Day to the fourth Monday in May, Independence Day to the first Monday in July and Veterans Day to the second Monday in November.

This initial effort met with sporadic success in a few states. But after several years of attempting to get the individual states to adopt uniform Monday holidays, it became apparent that a Federal bill was needed to serve as an example for state action.

Although early efforts to implement a Uniform Holidays Bill in 1968 also proposed moving the observance of Washington's Birthday to the third Monday in February and renaming the holiday "President's Day," the passed version of the bill provided only for the former. The official designation of the federal holiday observed on the third Monday of February is, and always has been, Washington's Birthday.

Every year the White House issues a proclamation on the third Monday of February celebrating George Washington's Birthday. There is nary a peep about "President's Day." And yet the myth persists that the Father of our Country has been dissed by taking away his special holiday.

So relax and, if you have the day off, spend some of it thinking about one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.

And stop complaining that we don't celebrate Washington's birthday any more.


According to the government, today is a holiday observing George Washington's birthday. It is not "President's Day." There is no such holiday on the federal calendar.

Snopes clears up the confusion:

However, the seeds of confusion were sown in 1968 with the passage of a piece of legislation known as Uniform Holidays Bill, intended to create more three-day weekends for federal employees by moving the observance of three existing federal holidays (Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day) from fixed calendar dates to designated Mondays, and by establishing Columbus Day, also to be observed on a Monday, as a new federal holiday. (Subsequent legislation enacted several years later eventually restored the observance of Veterans Day to November 11.) Under this act, from 1971 onwards the observance date of Washington's Birthday would be relocated from February 22 to the third Monday in February. (Oddly enough, this change guaranteed that Washington's Birthday would never again be celebrated on his "actual" birthday of February 22, as the third Monday in February cannot fall any later than February 21.)

So far, so good. The date of observance of Washington's Birthday might have been tinkered with a bit, but the holiday was still undeniably "Washington's Birthday." So what happened to Lincoln's Birthday? And whence came "Presidents' Day"?

The concept of combining Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays into one holiday called "President's Day" was floated as far back as the early 1950s, as the New York Times noted in 1968:

The first uniform Monday holiday plan was promulgated by NATO [the National Association of Travel Organizations] in the early 1950's. It called for combining Washington's and Lincoln's Birthdays into a single President's Day, to be celebrated the third Monday in February, and shifting Memorial Day to the fourth Monday in May, Independence Day to the first Monday in July and Veterans Day to the second Monday in November.

This initial effort met with sporadic success in a few states. But after several years of attempting to get the individual states to adopt uniform Monday holidays, it became apparent that a Federal bill was needed to serve as an example for state action.

Although early efforts to implement a Uniform Holidays Bill in 1968 also proposed moving the observance of Washington's Birthday to the third Monday in February and renaming the holiday "President's Day," the passed version of the bill provided only for the former. The official designation of the federal holiday observed on the third Monday of February is, and always has been, Washington's Birthday.

Every year the White House issues a proclamation on the third Monday of February celebrating George Washington's Birthday. There is nary a peep about "President's Day." And yet the myth persists that the Father of our Country has been dissed by taking away his special holiday.

So relax and, if you have the day off, spend some of it thinking about one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.

And stop complaining that we don't celebrate Washington's birthday any more.