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Washington's Birthday, or Presidents Day

Washington’s Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. It is also commonly known as Presidents Day (sometimes spelled Presidents’ Day or President’s Day). As Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day, it is also the official name of a concurrent state holiday celebrated on the same day in a number of states.

The day was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia. It was later expanded to include all federal offices. As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. The date was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21. Of course, the date range never covers Washington’s actual birthday.

A name change was proposed in 1951. The purpose was not to honor any particular President, but to honor the office of the Presidency. With time, and much discussion, the term “Presidents’ Day” began its public appearance in the mid 1980s.

As with all things political, “Presidents’ Day” is not always an all-inclusive term. Some states celebrate on other dates and with other titles. Also, because Presidents Day is not the official name of the federal holiday, there is variation in how it is spelt. Both Presidents Day and Presidents’ Day are today common, and both are considered correct by dictionaries and usage manuals.


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