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President's Day
Major holiday before thisMLK Day
Major holiday after thisGood Friday / Easter

Presidents Day 2018 and 2019 in the United States

Presidents Day in the United States is celebrated on the third Monday of February in many states. In 2018, the holiday falls on 19 February to create the “Presidents Day weekend.”

201819 FebMonPresident's Day National except DE, FL, GA, IN,
23 NovFriPresident's Day Holiday NM
201918 FebMonPresident's Day National except DE, FL, GA, IN,
29 NovFriPresident's Day Holiday NM
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History of Presidents Day

Presidents Day originated as the celebration of the birthday of George Washington, the first president of the country. This day was known as “Washington’s Birthday,” and it was informally observed in many communities across the country from the year following his death in 1799.

The holiday was unofficially observed for most of the 1800s. Then, in 1879, it was signed into law by President Rutherford B. Hayes as a federal holiday and the first holiday to celebrate the life of an individual.

In the late 1960s, Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The act shifted several federal holidays from specific dates to predetermined Mondays. It was thought that moving the holidays to Monday would give employees additional three-day weekends and reduce employee absenteeism.

The act included a provision to combine Washington’s birthday, which falls on February 22, with Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12. Thus, though the holiday is still written as “Washington’s Birthday” in federal law, it soon was popularly understood to be a celebration of Washington, Lincoln, and all other citizens who served as President of the United States – thus evolving to become “Presidents Day.”

To add further complexity to the name of the holiday, each state that made it a legal state holiday chose a variation on the name that best suited local history – naming the day after Washington, Lincoln, or actually stating the name “Presidents Day” in the Act.

Traditions and celebrations

When Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday were individual celebrations, people spent time reflecting on the contributions of the country’s historic leaders and honoring them in various ways. However, the change in name to “Presidents Day”, the moving of the holiday to create a long weekend for leisure, and the strategies of marketers have meant that the holiday is now almost completely given over to travel, family vacations, and shopping.

Nevertheless, in many school districts across the country,  students spend time learning about the history of the United States and the social responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the country during the month of February.

George Washington’s farewell address is also read in the Senate every 22 February – a tradition kept since 1862. Only during the Civil War was it read more than once in a year in order to boost morale.