A History of President’s Day

Mount Rushmore

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. In 1879 Congress established this holiday for government offices in Washington, D.C. However, in 1885 they expanded it to all federal offices.

Officially known as “Washington’s Birthday,” this holiday has transformed over the years. Since Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was February 12, many states began to celebrate his and George Washington’s birthdays together. Many began to refer to the holiday collectively as “Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday.”

Although it was originally only meant to honor the first President of the United States, it is now viewed as a celebration of the office of the President more broadly. This is why, today, it is commonly referred to as “Presidents’ Day.”

For the majority of this holiday’s history it was celebrated on February 22, but on January 1, 1971, Congress changed that. They shifted the holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday of February as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

This act declared five federal holidays (President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day) would take place on a Monday in order to give federal employees more 3-day weekends. Later, Veterans Day was moved back to its original date of November 11, but the rest of the holidays, including President’s Day, have remained on Mondays. Apparently, the federal government has a little bit of heart after all.