Who do we celebrate on President's Day?

Popular culture tells us that when I was a little girl, we used to celebrate Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday along with Valentine's Day every February. However, due to the difficulty in having two such paid holidays, Washington and Lincoln's birthday celebrations were combined and called President's Day.  These stories began circulating in the 1950's. Adding to the confusion of these rumors was the notion that President Nixon is credited with changing Washingtong's birthday to President's Day commemorating ALL presidents including himself.  Nixon did issue an Executive Order declaring the third Monday of February as Washington's Birthday, but the notion he called for it to be called President's Day celebrating all presidents was actually from a newspaper spoof. According to this snopes article, in 1968, the New York Times reported: "The first uniform Monday holiday plan was promulgated by NATO [the National Association of Travel Organizations] in the early 1950's. It called for combining Washington's and Lincoln's Birthdays into a single President's Day, to be celebrated the third Monday in February, and shifting Memorial Day to the fourth Monday in May, Independence Day to the first Monday in July and Veterans Day to the second Monday in November. This initial effort met with sporadic success in a few states. But after several years of attempting to get the individual states to adopt uniform Monday holidays, it became apparent that a Federal bill was needed to serve as an example for state action." This is how confusion is spread through miscommunication.  The third Monday of February is Washington's Birthday, though you will, no doubt, see many a TV and newspaper ad depicting both Washington and Lincoln pushing products from furniture to kitchen items. This is the stuff that brings us to coin phrases like, "don't believe everything you read," grows urban legends and makes sites like Snopes.com so popular.  What say you?  What do you celebrate on "President's Day?" If you liked this post, please subscribe to our RSS feed and share the link…


  • Cindy Holman

    I almost forgot about it – we were on the way to the bank and then remembered! If I had school children at home still – I would remember it :)

  • Merit K

    We celebrate it as Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays and spend it learning more about them and their Presidencies as a part of our school day. We do not shop :0)

  • JoJo

    You’re right, it’s more about the sales than the man who inspired the day!

  • Carla

    Actually, we don’t celebrate it. My husband has to work. His company used to get it off, but they traded it for the Friday after Thanksgiving so they could have the traditional 4-day weekend. When the kids were little and had off school, we would occasionally do something, but that’s about it. I was raised with the two separate holidays so I tend to think Lincoln on Feb. 12 and Washington on Feb. 23 still. And you’re right, it’s mainly used as a “big sale” weekend. Nobody remembers much about the historical significance of the two men it’s supposed to be about. SIGH

  • JoJo

    Merit, I don’t take off for them either. I used to do that too when my son was younger. We’ve studied each of the presidents in detail when we did US History through the Presidents several years ago.

    Cindy, we don’t take off for it. The only way I remembered was I have to look at my calender throughout the day to know what I have scheduled. I’ve been known to miss my OWN SEMINARS because I didn’t have reminders programmed in. Now I have to schedule everything or I’d be lost.

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