History of President’s Day


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The celebration of President’s Day first occurred on February 22, 1800, following the death of George Washington. The former president’s birthday became a day of remembrance but was not considered a federal holiday until the 1870s under President Hayes’ administration. Additionally, until 1885 it was only celebrated in Washington D.C. but eventually expanded to include the entire nation.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which took effect in 1971, proposed changing the dates of many national holidays to Mondays. The objective of shifting the dates was to get more three day weekends for workers and reduce the amount of people taking off from work on a Monday without reason. The law also aimed to combine the holiday dedicated to Washington with the date of Lincoln’s birthday, February 12. After the passing of this bill the date of President’s day shifted from the 22nd of February to the third Monday of February every year.

Although the law included a provision to change the name of the holiday to President’s day, this was initially rejected by Congress. Eventually the name change was accepted due to retailers using the term “President’s Day” to sell goods around this time. Throughout the country, the holiday is celebrated in a variety of ways but knowing the history behind the holiday is essential to understanding the significance of the celebrations.