(ABC4) – Apart from being known for mattress sales and a day off of school and work, the third Monday in February is a day to remember Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as well as other U.S. presidents, according to the National Archives.
According to the site, Washington’s birthday was the first national holiday set in celebration of a person’s birth. The holiday began to give all federal workers a day off in 1885. Prior to that, people in many states had celebrated Washington’s birthday informally since his death, mountvernon.org says.
The National Archives has many records of marches and addresses that occurred in honor of Washington on his birthday throughout U.S. history.
In 1968, lawmakers made the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved many legal public holidays to Mondays to keep things uniform. In 1971, under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Washington’s birthday was celebrated on the third Monday in February, according to govinfo.gov.
Set between Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12 and Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22, the holiday came to be known as Presidents Day, the National Archives states.
However, according to mountvernon.org, the government never officially changed the name of the holiday from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day. Incorrect information circulating on the internet attributed the name change to a nonexistent presidential proclamation by President Richard Nixon in 1971.
The name took off in the 1980s when advertisers used the term President’s Day to promote sales. It now appears on calendars and is recognized by some government agencies, govinfo.gov says.
Today, U.S. citizens use Presidents Day to honor and remember Washington, Lincoln, and the office of the presidency.