The Complicated History of President's Day

The history of President’s Day shows us its fascinating origins and its transformation to become the holiday it is now.  

We celebrate President’s Day as a federal holiday every year on the 3rd Monday of February. Many people simply recognize the holiday as the day to remember the past presidents of the country and their contributions. While this is correct, the holiday also has a much more complicated history than is often realized.
 
The reason the holiday occurs when it does is that George Washington’s birthday was on the 22nd of February, making the 3rd Monday of the month a close date. However, before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that would occur in the 1960s, “Washington’s Birthday” itself was the holiday. Many people would unofficially celebrate this date throughout the 1800s, but “Washington’s Birthday” would later become a federal holiday under President Rutherford B. Hayes.
 
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act sought to move several holidays to Mondays throughout the year, rather than holding them on their specific date. This was done as a result of activism from labor unions, as well as businesses that believed that workers would be more likely to show up to work. In the case of President’s Day, it was observed that “Washington’s Birthday” also fell close to “Lincoln’s Birthday”, which was on February 12th. Lincoln’s birthday was not celebrated in such a widespread manner as Washington’s, but was recognized as an official state holiday in Illinois and was celebrated elsewhere as well. Due to the proximity of the dates, the federal government combined the two holidays under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to create what is now President’s Day.
 
As a result of the history of the day itself, President’s Day is technically rooted in the celebration of both Washington and Lincoln. However, because of semantics and the name change, it is pretty much just a celebration of all former U.S presidents.