Presidents Day: Whose Day Is It, Anyway?

Posted by Safeco February 14, 2016
Washington’s Birthday Is the Official Federal Holiday Many Know as Presidents Day

Short Answer: George Washington’s.

Presidents Day – we all know it honors George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, all the presidents, really. Or, does it?

Let’s look back. In 1800, the year after Washington’s death, his Feb. 22 birthday was first celebrated, albeit unofficially. Officially, Congress designated his birthday as a federal holiday in the late 19th century. Then, in 1968, Congress moved the holiday to the third Monday of February, as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. (As such, the holiday never falls on Washington’s actual birthday anymore.)

While early versions of the legislation honored Lincoln as well, and proposed changing the name to Presidents Day, the official federal holiday remains as: Washington’s Birthday. Yes, the day, it seems, belongs to George, the father of our country.

Many states, however, put their own spin on the day, resulting in a striking variety of observances:

  • Just over half the states do, in fact, call the third Monday in February Presidents Day.
  • Several more, including George’s home state of Virginia, line up with the federal government and call it Washington’s Birthday.
  • Three more celebrate all the presidents that day, while still calling out Washington and Lincoln specifically.
  • Alabama celebrates Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Arkansas honors Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil rights activist.
  • And, four states, including Abe’s home state of Illinois, still celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12.

There are also a few states that, like Illinois and Virginia, have days for native sons: Missouri with Truman Day on May 8, Texas with Lyndon B. Johnson Day on Aug. 27 and Hawaii with King Kamehameha Day on June 11, which actually began in 1871, before Hawaii became part of the United States.

So, there you have it. Officially, tomorrow is Washington’s Birthday. But, if you know it as Presidents Day (or President’s Day or Presidents’ Day), that’s fine, too. And, if you happen to have the day off, enjoy!

Did You Know? In addition to Washington’s Birthday, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved Memorial Day and Veterans Day to Mondays. Veterans Day, however, was later moved back to its traditional date, Nov. 11 (the anniversary of the World War I armistice in 1918), after a public outcry.


Where You Live Impacts Your Insurance Needs, Too

Different states don’t just have different names for Washington’s Birthday, or Presidents Day. They also have different insurance requirements or risks. For auto insurance, most states require you to carry a certain amount of coverage. For home insurance, where you live can expose you to different risks, such as hurricanes or tornados. To ensure you select the needed coverage, work with an independent insurance agent, who can help you weigh your options.

Topics: Holidays

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