Why You Should Spend President's Day Doing Whatever You Want

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Happy President’s Day! For many of us, the oddest of the federal bank holidays is a little bit of a mystery. It’s not like Labor Day, when we honor the low-wage workers and labor activists who helped build the American workforce. It’s not like Memorial Day, when we remember the soldiers who gave their lives in America’s wars. On President’s Day, we’re celebrating...presidents. If you think of the holiday as an excuse to take a day off from work and hang around in your jammies, well, you're sort of in the right spirit.

The third Monday in February actually started off as a celebration of one specific president: the original one. The official federal name of the holiday is actually George Washington’s Birthday and was originally celebrated on Mr. Dollar Bill’s real birthday, February 22 on the modern Gregorian calendar. (The Julian calendar that was used at the time he was born dated his birth as February 11, because history is weird.)

Despite what it says on your calendar, President’s Day is actually just a colloquial name that was born out of rolling together both Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which is on February 12. Some states also include Thomas Jefferson in their official celebrations, even though his birthday is two months later, in April.

As for why the date moves around, falling anywhere from February 15 through the 21st, that’s because of 1968’s Monday Holiday Act which is a law literally passed to give you a three-day weekend. The act moved President’s Day, along with Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day from their original dates to the closest Monday in order to give federal employees a long weekend.

So it would seem that President’s Day is literally intended to let you sleep in, maybe do a little online shopping, and have a day off.

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