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Is it Washington’s Birthday or Presidents Day?

Many people are confused by several holidays related to the United States presidency that occur early in the calendar year. One example is the third Monday in February, which is designated as Washington’s Birthday. In recent years the day has been referred to as Presidents Day, but that is not the holiday's official name.

The observance of Washington's Birthday goes back to the 1800's. It was initially a day of remembrance for George Washington, the first, and many believe the greatest, president of the United States. The holiday took place each February 22, the day of George Washington's birth in 1732. Washington's Birthday became an officially recognized holiday for all federal employees in 1885.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act changed the observance of Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February. About this time, advertisers began promoting the holiday as Presidents Day.

Celebrating Washington's Birthday on a different day than his actual birthday became an opportunity to remember all presidents, not just Washington. Though there are not many traditions associated with the holiday, it remains a patriotic celebration. Many schools use the occasion of the holiday to teach presidential history. There are many historical reenactments about George Washington and other U.S. presidents around the country. 

There have been many failed attempts to change the official name of the holiday. Washington's Birthday remains the official name. In 2017 we will celebrate Washington's Birthday on Monday, February 20. Check out our 2017 Federal Holidays Calendar to see all the federal holidays for 2017.