Check your calendar. Odds are, the third Monday in February is listed as Presidents’ Day, a holiday you may know to recognize the accomplishments of all past U.S. Presidents. However, the history behind this holiday is a lot more complicated than you might think.
After George Washington died in 1799, his supporters began recognizing his birthday, February 22, as an annual day of remembrance for America’s First President. Washington’s Birthday became a federal holiday for the District of Columbia in 1879 and for the rest of the country in 1885. This was the first federal holiday that honored an individual.
Then in 1968, Congress introduced the Uniform Monday Holiday bill, which hoped to change certain federal holidays from specific dates to designate Mondays, creating more three-day weekends! The idea was that more long weekends would make people less likely to skip work on the original holiday.
The bill also wanted to combine Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays into one holiday (some states were celebrating both birthdays). Once the bill combined the birthdays, Illinois Senator Robert McClory proposed that this holiday be called “Presidents’ Day.” In 1971, the bill passed and President Richard Nixon issued an executive order that the third Monday in February was now a holiday.
Here’s the thing though; according to the United States Code, the holiday is technically still called Washington’s Birthday. The name never officially changed to Presidents’ Day!