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How much do you know about Presidents’ Day? It’s in February. It celebrates Washington’s birthday, and maybe Lincoln’s, right? Car dealerships go nuts. Is that all there is to it? Here’s the whole story behind this holiday.
- It’s not actually called Presidents’ Day. Officially, the federal holiday is still called “Washington’s Birthday,” though the popular usage of “Presidents’ Day” has been ubiquitous since the 1980s.
- Not every state has shifted over. Massachusetts and Virginia still officially celebrate Washington’s Birthday and George Washington Day, respectively. Alabama’s official holiday is George Washington/Thomas Jefferson Birthday, and Arkansas celebrates George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day.
- The date of the holiday keeps shifting. George Washington’s birthday is on February 22nd, so that’s when the holiday used to be. But even though the holiday wasn’t observed until 1796 (the last year of his presidency), the birthday dated back to 1732, when we still used the old Julian-style calendar, according to which his birthday was actually February 11th. In 1880, Congress just went ahead and made February 22nd official.
- Congress just loves three-day weekends. In 1968, they passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, to create as many long weekends as possible.
- Not everyone liked the change. Die-hard Washington supporters feared his memory would be lost if the holiday weren’t actually on his birthday, not to mention the outrage at corrupting the holiday by combining it with all the other presidents.