Whose day is it anyway? Washington’s Birthday or Presidents’ Day

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

In the middle of February, the federal government grants us a small reprieve from the doldrums of work with a three-day weekend. Officially known as Washington’s Birthday, it’s been confused as Presidents’ Day, Lincoln’s Birthday or something else altogether. Growing up in California, we had both Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays listed on the calendar. So, which is it? Well, it’s kind of all of the above. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Washington’s Birthday

George Washington, one of our founding fathers and our first president, was born on February 22, 1732. Claiming first dibs, Washington’s Birthday became an officially observed holiday by an act of Congress in 1879. At first, the day was celebrated within the confines of government offices in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the holiday expanded to include all federal organizations across the country. In 1968, Washington’s Birthday moved to its current celebratory date on the third Monday in February. Ironically, his actual birthday will never fall on that date.

Lincoln’s Birthday

The revered 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 12, 1809. Despite several pushes from a pharmacist in New York back in the late 1870s and Rep. Robert McClory (R-IL) in 1968, Lincoln’s birthday was never officially recognized as a federal holiday. It’s recognized locally in certain states either on its own or in conjunction with Washington’s Birthday.

Presidents’ Day

Thanks to clever advertisers pushing discounts and sales, the term “Presidents’ Day” (or some variant of) started sneaking into our lexicon in the 1980s. The February holiday has become more of a catch-all by commemorating all U.S. Presidents. However, to honor our first Commander-in-Chief, several of Washington’s successors have paid tribute to him by visiting his final resting place at Mt. Vernon on this day.

So, whose day is it? The official answer is Washington’s. Happy 288th Birthday, Mr. President!

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