President’s Day – Just Whose Day Is it, Anyway?
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.
This year, the holiday that’s come to be known as “Presidents’ Day” falls on February 18th – right in between the two birthdays.
That’s why many people think President’s Day is meant to celebrate both men at the same time.
According to legislation passed by Congress in 1968, the official name of the federal holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.”
In fact, Mr. Lincoln’s birthday has never been a federal holiday.
When the celebration of Mr. Washington’s birthday was officially moved to the third Monday in February in 1971, a lot of people just assumed that it was a celebration of Mr. Lincoln’s birthday as well.
And that’s why it has come to be known as “Presidents’ Day.”
Mr. Washington’s birthday first became an official federal holiday in 1885.
But it had been celebrated as an unofficial holiday since the late 1700s, when he was still our nation’s first (and only) President.
Up until 1971, it was always celebrated on his actual birthday.
But now, it’s always celebrated on the third Monday of February, regardless of the date.
Mr. Lincoln’s birthday has never been a federal holiday — although some states made it a state holiday soon after he was assassinated in 1865.
But President’s Day itself still officially belongs to Mr. Washington.
Every Presidents’ Day, there are special events at Mount Vernon.
That’s the estate in northern Virginia where Mr. Washington lived much of his adult life.
And the city of Alexandria, Virginia, which is near Mount Vernon, holds a parade in Washington’s honor.
When George Washington became the United States’ first President in 1789, our nation was just short of 13 years old.
There was no presidential history to guide him.
And there was no map laying out the road ahead of him.
But President Washington helped establish an institution and a nation that have survived for more than two centuries.
And that’s something worth celebrating.