Is it Presidents Day or Washington’s Birthday? 5 issues to know concerning the February vacation

For a long time, Americans have noticed Presidents Day on the third Monday of February (this yr, that falls on Feb. 20). It’s a federal vacation that affords us a possibility to reap the benefits of gross sales aplenty or just calm down and revel in a three-day weekend.

But what are the origins of the vacation? And who precisely are we honoring? Here are 5 issues to remember.

The vacation is named Presidents Day, proper?

Not essentially. On the federal calendar, it’s specified as Washington’s Birthday — a day to honor George Washington, our first president. As the federal Office of Personnel Management notes on its web site: “This holiday is designated as ‘Washington’s Birthday’ in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for federal employees. Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law.”

But because the Office of Personnel Management signifies, states can — and can — do their very own factor. And many, from Alaska to Wyoming, acknowledge the vacation as Presidents Day.

When did Presidents Day — er, Washington’s Birthday — change into an official federal vacation?

The nation has been observing Washington’s birthday, which falls on Feb. 22, for a few years in a single type or one other. In 1837, for instance, President Andrew Jackson held a reception in Washington’s honor on the day, replete with, um, a 1,400-pound hunk of cheese that was a present from a New York dairy farmer, in line with the White House Historical Association.

By 1879, Washington’s birthday turned a federally acknowledged vacation, notes the web site for Mount Vernon, the Virginia property of the late president. But it wasn’t till Congress handed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 that the official celebration of Washington’s birthday was designated because the third Monday in February (the regulation didn’t go into impact till 1971, nevertheless). That turned the presidential hoopla right into a three-day weekend.

So how did Presidents Day change into the widespread title for the day?

According to, there was speak of making a Presidents Day way back to the Nineteen Fifties as a method of celebrating Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12) on the similar time. And folks typically suppose the third Monday of February is simply that: a mixed celebration of two nice presidents, regardless of the Washington’s Birthday federal designation. But once more, many states do designate it as Presidents Day.

And says these state designations helped solidify the day as Presidents Day within the nation’s collective consciousness, As the web site notes, “federal holidays technically apply only to persons employed by the federal government (and the District of Columbia).” 

The Mount Vernon people blame Madison Avenue for what they name the Presidents Day “misnomer,” saying on their web site, “In the 1980s, thanks to advertising campaigns for holiday sales, the term became popularized and largely accepted.”

How do followers of George Washington really feel about all this?

We can’t converse for all of the George Washington groupies on the market. But the Mount Vernon crowd actually has robust opinions. “Bring Back Washington’s Birthday!” they are saying on the Mount Vernon web site. And they’re calling on others to write down to their elected officers and inform them the identical.

“As a founding father, and our first President, (Washington’s) character and accomplishments should not be muddled into a holiday as a vague as ‘Presidents’ Day,’” the Mount Vernon web site says.

What’s a great way to rejoice Washington’s Birthday — or, in the event you desire, Presidents Day?

Take your decide: You can go to Mount Vernon without cost. Or you possibly can attend a day “of presidential storytelling, musical performances, and more” on the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Or you possibly can store until you drop — in individual or on-line (hey, there’s a bamboo standing desk on sale).  

Or perhaps simply curl up at residence with a great e book — say, Ron Chernow’s “Washington: A Life,” which is taken into account one of many definitive biographies of our first president. After all, it’s Washington’s birthday — at the least to some folks.

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