There are still a few of us around who remember celebrating both George Washington’s birthday on February 22 and Abraham Lincoln’s on February 16 instead of a single President’s Day.
Back then, the original emphasis for a President’s Day was our first president George Washington’s birth. In 1800, a year after his death, it became a perennial day of remembrance named Presidents’ Day.
At the time, Washington was the most important figure in American history. In fact, the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of construction of the Washington Monument in 1848 were national celebrations.
It wasn’t until 1879, when President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the law that initially only applied to the District of Columbia, that Washington’s birthday became a designated federal holiday. In 1885, the holiday expanded to the whole country.
Gradually the George Washington emphasis shifted to others who had ever served as president.
Then, in 1971, with the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, President’s Day became another three-day weekend for the nation’s workers.
Several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, but for the most part Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as the day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present.
Presidents’ Day never falls on any of their birth dates. Rather it is always celebrated on the third Monday of February.
Probably more than you wanted to know about President’s Day. But isn’t history interesting?