The date of recognition was chosen to commemorate the birthday of George Washington which was February 11th of 1731 according to the Julian calendar. Britain shifted to the use of the Gregorian calendar and so shifted everyone’s birthday by jumping ahead the sum of 11 days, which now left George Washington with the new birthday celebration on February 22 and gave a new date to President’s Day. In 1885 President Chester Arthur signed a bill declaring George Washington’s birthday of February 22nd a federal holiday.
This date confusion was only a minor glitch and easily compensated for until Abraham Lincoln came along; another great president in deserving of recognition and as luck would have it another February birthday as well. Although Lincoln’s birthday was never to be declared a federal holiday, it did become recognized as one of significance at the state level where many of the governments observed February 12th as a legal holiday.
In 1968, a bill was passed to change several of the federal holidays to make things a bit easier on the calendar schedules of federal employee’s observance of holidays. Moving several of the declared holidays to the Mondays of a specific week, three day weekends promote easier schedule accommodations for the observance. In the case of President’s Day observance, it is held on the third Monday of the February calendar.
We refer to this holiday as President’s Day to honor both presidents but officially it still remains to be called Washington’s Birthday. Congress rejected the proposal to change the recognition to President’s Day which is ironic as it always tends to fall after Lincoln’s birthday and before Washington’s. Confusion surrounding the official name change of the holiday caused quite a stir; many leaders believe Lincoln was short-changed while others believe all presidents are deserving of recognition.
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