About Washington's Birthday
When is Washington's Birthday/President's Day?
Washington's Birthday is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. At a state level, it may be called President's Day, with an apostrophe that moves about from state to state.
Though it may be technically incorrect, the federal holiday is often colloquially referred to as Presidents' Day. The Associated Press Stylebook, most newspapers and some magazines use the form "President's Day" as an alternate rendering of "Washington's Birthday". The name Presidents' Day is also the more common version of the name when used internationally.
This confusion as to the name is that despite its status as a federal holiday, states are free to name this holiday as they wish or even whether or not it is observed as a public holiday in that state.
While the day might be a holiday at a state level, whether or not a private company is likely to observe the day as a holiday depends on the nationwide approach to public holidays in that company.
Most government offices and public schools will be closed and it is a postal holiday, so there will be no mail deliveries on President's Day.
History of Presidents' Day
The original version of the holiday was in commemoration of George Washington's birthday in 1796 (the last full year of his presidency). Washington, according to the calendar that has been used since at least the mid-18th century, was born on February 22nd 1732. According to the old style calendar in use back then, however, he was born on February 11th. In 1796, many Americans celebrated his birthday on the 22nd while others marked the occasion on the 11th instead.
By the early 19th century, Washington's Birthday had taken firm root in the American experience as a bona fide national holiday. Its traditions included Birthnight Balls in various regions, speeches, and receptions given by prominent public figures, and a lot of revelry in taverns throughout the land.
President Chester Alan Arthur was the first to designate Washington's original birth date as a national holiday in 1885.
Then along came Abraham Lincoln, another revered president and fellow February baby (born on the 12th of the month). The first formal observance of his birthday took place in 1865, the year after his assassination when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address. While Lincoln's Birthday did not become a federal holiday like George Washington's, it did become a legal holiday in several states.
In 1968, legislation (HR 15951) was enacted that affected several federal holidays. One of these was Washington's Birthday, the observation of which was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd. This act, which took effect in 1971, was designed to simplify the yearly calendar of holidays and give federal employees some standard three-day weekends in the process.
An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act suggested renaming the federal holiday as "Presidents' Day" to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. This proposal failed in committee and on 28 June 1968, the bill was voted on and signed into law, keeping the name "Washington's Birthday".
In the 1980s, advertising campaigns for holiday furniture and other durable-goods sales began adding Lincoln to the mix and popularizing the term Presidents Day.
How is the Day Celebrated?
Every year in the US Senate, George Washington’s farewell speech is read on Presidents Day. His farewell speech is also read in history classes and on online discussion boards.
Parades and patriotic celebrations with family and friends have been traditional ways for people to mark the occasion. Washington and Lincoln are most commonly celebrated, while celebrations in honor of Jefferson follow closely.
Cherry-based delicacies are consumed because the original purpose of this festival was to commemorate Washington’s birthday. This is due to the well-known tale of Washington chopping a cherry tree.
South of Fairfax County, on a hill overlooking the Potomac River, is Mount Vernon, the treasured residence of George Washington. One of the few occasions a year, when people can visit this renowned estate without a fee, is on Presidents Day.
The largest parade in America honoring George Washington’s birth is the George Washington Birthday Parade in Laredo, Texas. All the presidents of the United States are honored during a month-long parade that concludes with a spectacular party on George Washington’s birthday.
While the holiday in February is still officially known as Washington's Birthday (at least according to the Office of Personnel Management), it has become popularly (and, in some cases at the state level, legally) known as "Presidents' Day." This has made the third Monday in February a day for honoring both Washington and Lincoln, as well as all the other men who have served as president.
In Arkansas, Daisy Gatson Bates Day is a state holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February.
We use images of Mount Rushmore on this page, so here is some background on this monument.
Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. The side of the mountain features 18-meter (60-foot) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents from left to right: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
These four Presidents were chosen for this monumental sculpture for the following reasons:
- George Washington – He was the first president and represents the foundation of American democracy.
- Thomas Jefferson – With the Louisiana Purchase, he greatly expanded the nation. He was also the author of the Declaration of Independence.
- Theodore Roosevelt – He not only represents the industrial development of the nation but was also widely known for conservation efforts.
- Abraham Lincoln – As the president during the US Civil War, he represents the preservation of the nation above all costs.