Today is George Washington’s birthday. But here’s why we celebrate it on Presidents’ Day
Today is George Washington’s birthday. But does it seem like it?
Americans haven’t celebrated the first US president’s birthday on his actual birthday for nearly 50 years.
Instead, the US celebrates his birthday on Presidents’ Day, the third Monday in February.
Washington’s two birthdays
Don’t you wish you could celebrate your birthday twice in one month? Well, Washington did while he was in office.
He was born on February 11, 1732, on the Julian calendar, which was used at the time. But it changed when England and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. His birthday moved to February 22.
In the Gregorian calendar, an extra day is added to the calendar every four years in order to synchronize it with the solar year. We know that extra day as a leap day.
Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday on both days throughout his 1789 to 1797 presidency.
In 1885, the US made February 22 a federal holiday and called it Washington’s Birthday.
That all changed nearly 100 years later.
Monday Holiday Act
Congress debated in 1968 whether to combine Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, who was born on February 12, into one holiday called Presidents’ Day.
But legislators from Washington’s home state of Virginia opposed and the bill failed. Congress still passed the Monday Holidays Act that same year.
The act moved every federal holiday to Mondays to give Americans a three-day weekend.
The bill took effect in 1971 and it moved Washington’s birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February.
But not all states celebrate President’s Day.
Virginia still calls it Washington’s Day; Alabama calls it Washington and Jefferson Day and Montana calls it Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthday.