So being in the Military, I have today off for Presidents Day... or is it Washington's Birthday, or maybe Lincoln's, or maybe its both... So is the confusion that comes with the third Monday each February. What are we actually "celebrating" and when did the madness start?
First, lets start with the official designation for this day. Officially it is Washington's Birthday. I say officially because Washington's Birthday was actually born on February 22. So why is February 20 (this years date) called Washington's Birthday? For that answer we have to go back to 1968. It was this year that Congress attempted to create a uniform system for Monday Federal Holidays. They moved three existing holidays (Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day) to fall on a Monday. It was at this time that Columbus Day (also a Monday) was designated a holiday, but that's for another day. So while doing this ensured that the holiday known as "Washington's Birthday" would never fall on his actual Birthday, where did we get the idea that it was called "President's Day?" This lovely idea came from an article in the New York Times basically talking about the Uniform Monday Holiday Act changing all federal holidays to Mondays, and combining Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday to create President's day on the third Monday of February. Confused yet?
So what of Lincoln's birthday you may ask. Well while not officially a Federal Holiday, states are able to designate their own state holidays and can celebrate Lincoln's birthday if they wish. So in an attempt to clear up all the confusion in 2001 the "Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001" was introduced stating that the third Monday in February would only be referred to as Washington's Birthday and nothing else. This bill this failed to clear committee and died before a vote.
So I don't know about you, but even after looking at all the information I am still confused, and will just sit back with the knowledge that no matter what you do, some things are just not meant to be understood. If you would like some additional information see here and here. Also here is some interesting trivia if you are interested.