It’s as American as, well, Mount Rushmore. A holiday to celebrate the birthday of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and all our other illustrious leaders. Or is it? In fact, there’s a bit of confusion about President’s Day.
According to History.com, when the holiday was first implemented in the 1800s, it was named George Washington’s Birthday. It was celebrated on February, 22 to commemorate our first president’s birthday. But depending on the type of calendar used (Julian or Gregorian) he could have been born on February 22nd or 11th. Huh? Either way, the father of our country would be 279 this year.
Now, back to the confusion over President’s Day. After the assassination of 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. So on February 12, 1892 Lincoln’s birthday was declared a federal holiday. Easy enough to understand, two presidents, two holidays.
Up until 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to be a problem. In fact, if you’re old enough to remember attending school in the 1960’s you might even recall having two days off in February. However, not all states observed Lincoln’s Birthday, meaning some schools didn’t get the extra holiday. Can’t you just hear the outcry of kids everywhere, “Hey…that’s not fair.”
Confused? Enter the Politicians, they’ll sort things out. Yeah, right.
Back in 1968 congress dreamed up the idea of President’s Day as part of the Uniform Holiday Act. Then in 1971 President Richard Nixon issued an executive order that defined the third Monday of February as a federal holiday. This gave some lucky federal and state workers several long weekends a year. There, that should fix things.
Hold on…what about the confusion over the name itself? Is it President’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or Presidents Day? Technically they’re all incorrect, because it’s really George Washington’s Day, at least according to the federal government. Do you have a headache yet?
Here’s an idea, just sing along with Marilyn Monroe and wish which ever president you want a Happy Birthday. And try not to think about George and Abe rolling over in the graves.