Presidents’ Day in February celebrates the birthday of our first president, George Washington, and the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the president who kept the union together during its most severe trial.
However, instead of celebrating on their actual birthdays, which may land inconveniently mid-week, in 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law. More from the National Archives:
Washington’s Birthday was celebrated on February 22nd until well into the 20th Century. However, in 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”
Interesting bit of trivia: Washington was born during the period that the Julian calendar was used on February 11, 1731. When Great Britain and the colonies moved to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Washington’s birthday also moved, to February 22, 1732!
“Presidents’ Day” is actually a misnomer, because Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12, 1809) is not a federal holiday, but it is a state holiday in many states, and somehow we’ve named the day after the combination. The fascinating story of the political jockeying (not to mention marketing) that ended up with both presidents sharing the same day is gone into more detail here (part 1) and here (part 2).
Apparently, a reporter’s cat is largely to blame.