Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day

Happy President's Day, everyone!  Or I should say, Happy Washington's Birthday!  Maybe both are right!  Or maybe it should be Presidents' Day.

Do you know the history behind this legal public holiday?  Grammatically speaking, the word "President's" is singular, thereby suggesting the day is for celebrating ONE president.  I've seen it also called Presidents' Day, which grammatically means it is a day to celebrate ALL presidents.  So what is correct?

Actually, legally speaking (i.e., U.S. Code, Title 5, Section 6103) the day is to celebrate ONE president, and that is President George Washington.  Thus, the official name for the holiday is Washington's Birthday.  It is one of eleven permanent holidays established by the Congress for federal employees and the District of Columbia. The holiday was initially celebrated on Washington's official birthday, February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar.  In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar, which placed Washington's birth on February 22, 1732.  Why has the February 22nd date changed?

Let's first establish when Washington's birthday legally became a holiday.  It was designated as a legal holiday by the Congress on January 31, 1879.  Then in 1968, Washington's Birthday holiday was moved to the third Monday of February as a result of the congressional Monday Holiday Law.  Though the day of the holiday was changed by the Law, the name of the holiday did not.  It has remained to this day as the Washington's Birthday holiday.  So why is the holiday unofficially called President's/Presidents' Day? 

This holiday is not a "national holiday", which means it is not applicable to the states.  As stated above, it is only applicable to federal employees and the District of Columbia.  However, the holiday has an impact on banks, post offices, etc.  That impact is addressed by the states which decide their own legal holidays.  Currently, there are several states that have renamed Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day or a similar variation to honor all of the U.S. presidents.  In Massachusetts, for example, the holiday focuses on honoring presidents from that state and a few other states have passed similar holidays as well.
Thus, in a nutshell, today, George Washington's Birthday, is a day that we can celebrate Washington's Birthday, or a day to celebrate all presidents!  Whichever, enjoy your holiday!! 

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