Monday, February 18, 2013

#PresidentsDay Doesn't Actually Exist

George Washington
US Public Domain
February 18

President's Day

Happy President's Day. Americans have set today aside to honor their president since 1796 yet it was now known as President's Day. Our first president, George Washington was born on February 18, 1732. He served as the United States President from April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797. He was so beloved by the people that at the end of his term residents in Washington, D.C. wanted to celebrate his birthday. There was only one problem. Which date would they chose?

The confusion started in 1752 when England and her colonies, in accordance to the 1750 Act of Parliament, changed over from using the Julian calendar to the Gregorian. The Julian calendar had been used since the reign of Julius Caesar in 45BC. It consisted of 12 months based on a solar year. Each year had 365 days with the fourth year, the Leap Year, having 366 days. Each year began in March making February the last month of the year. The change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar changed the following:

  • December 31, 1750 was followed by January 1, 1750 (under the "Old Style" calendar, December was the 10th month and January the 11th)
  • March 24, 1750 was followed by March 25, 1751 (March 25 was the first day of the "Old Style" year)
  • December 31, 1751 was followed by January 1, 1752 (the switch from March 25 to January 1 as the first day of the year)
  • September 2, 1752 was followed by September 14, 1752 (drop of 11 days to conform to the Gregorian calendar)
  • You can read more about the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendars at
Is it no wonder the colonists were so confused? President Washington's birthday became an official holiday in 1880. George Washington's birthday was celebrated on February 22 since this would have been the date he was born in under the Julian Calendar.

What About Good Ole Abe Lincoln?
George Washington wasn't the only beloved president whose birthday was honored. Abraham Lincoln was either a much loved or much hated president depending on where in the United States you lived. After the assignation of President Lincoln, several towns began to honor their beloved president with observances of his February 12th birthday. As the years past, the holiday trend grew so much that a handful of states declared Abraham Lincoln's birthday a state holiday.

The observances of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays were well known throughout the United States by the time Congress introduced the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act had been created to move a handful for federal holidays to Mondays in order to create three day weekends. Contrary to popular belief, the Act did not combine President Lincoln and President Washington's birthday nor did it create President's Day. Although President's Day does fall between the two president' birthdays, Abraham Lincoln's birthday has never been federally recognized as a national holiday. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act changed the date of these holidays.

  • Washington's Birthday: third Monday in February (formerly February 22)
  • Memorial Day: last Monday in May (formerly May 30)
  • Columbus Day: second Monday in October (formerly observed on October 12)
  • Veterans Day: fourth Monday in October (formerly November 11 and subsequently moved back to November 11 effective 1978) 
Although Martin Luther King Jr, Day falls on a Monday it was not part of this Act since it was not established until 1983.

Some die hard George Washington supporters were offended that Congress had moved the federal observance of his birthday. They believed since President Washington had been born on February 22 under the Julian calender his observance should remain on that date.  That is why some calendars still have February 22 marked as his birthday.

Whether you call it President's Day or Presidents Day, the day doesn't actually exist. Today is officially known as George Washington's birthday although it is commonly known as President's Day. Some groups use today to honor all our presidents yet in reality there truly is only one president who should be recognized today.

Birthday Cake By: Will Clayton



  1. Love it Allison! You always have interesting stuff to read about on your blog and I learn so much!! Happy President George Washington Day to you!!

    1. Thanks! I love blogging about history, little known facts and the inspirational stories. Happy President George Washington's Birthday to you as well. :-)