It’s the third Monday in February, which means… it’s Presidents’ Day! Right? Well, not exactly.

In truth, this federal holiday is technically known as Washington’s Birthday in honor of our first president and “Father of Our Country,” George Washington. So why then does everyone call this day “Presidents’ Day”?

Washington’s Birthday was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen. As such, it was originally celebrated on George Washington’s actual birthday, February 22.

In 1971, however, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted Washington’s Birthday from February 22 to the floating date of the third Monday in February. Oddly enough, the third Monday in February places Washington’s Birthday somewhere between February 15 and 21 each year — but never again on his actual birthday of February 22!

Various groups have attempted to establish an official Presidents’ Day to honor all American presidents. Although an early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act renamed the holiday Presidents’ Day to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the final bill as passed retained the name Washington’s Birthday.

Today’s widespread usage of the name Presidents’ Day stems from a couple of sources. One of the primary reasons is that state and federal holiday schedules often differ.

Although the official federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, many states celebrate Washington’s birthday, Lincoln’s birthday or a combination of the two known as Presidents’ Day.

Presidents’ Day can also be traced back to a push by retailers and advertisers in the 1980s. Today, this February holiday has become known for being a day in which many stores, especially car dealers, have big sales.

Because Presidents’ Day isn’t the official name of the holiday, you’ll notice different spellings from time to time. Both “Presidents Day” and “Presidents’ Day” are considered correct.

While many think “President’s Day” is a misspelling (and it is if used in the context of celebrating more than one person), it could be seen as proper if used as a substitution for “Washington’s Birthday” or in the context of honoring the office of the presidency.

 

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  1. dear wonderopolis,
    I really enjoyed this wonder. I have watched
    so many different wonders and can’t decide which one is my favorite. In my school, every Wednesday we have Wonder Wednesday and I love it.

    Love,
    ELISE

    • Wonder Wednesday sounds AWESOME, Elise! Thank you for sharing that you and your classmates like visiting Wonderopolis! We don’t think you have to choose a favorite Wonder…each one is WONDERful in its own way! :-)

  2. Hi, wonderopolis,
    I really like today’s wonder and I think it is really cool! In school, we have been talking about this, so I know a lot about it.
    Thanks,
    Elizabeth

    • It’s AWESOME that you had some background knowledge about President’s Day before you explored this Wonder of the Day®, Elizabeth! We hope you learned some new things, too! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis! :-)

  3. Hi, wonderopolis,
    I see my friends Nathan and Elise explored the wonder, too, so I am very excited! I am glad me and my friends are sharing all of their cool comments, and this wonder I think is really cool. I love going on wonderopolis because it is a very cool web site! I am learning a lot of new facts from this.
    Thanks,
    Elizabeth

    • How COOL that three classmates have each left us a comment on this Wonder of the Day® about President’s Day! We’re glad you’re a Wonder Friend, Elizabeth! :-)

  4. I love this wonder! I think that some people in my class have been looking at this wonder, too, like Elizabeth, Nathan, and Elise. I don’t know about them, but I can’t wait for the next wonder!

    • We’re so glad you stopped by this Wonder of the Day®, Audrey! We think it’s awesome that you and your classmates chose to visit Wonderopolis and learn some fun new facts about President’s Day! :-)

  5. Hi wonderopolis!!

    I LLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEDDD today’s wonder!!! I am in the same class as Elizabeth. I’ll be leaving comments on other wonders.

    I love your website,

    Tyler

    • Woo, hoo! Another awesome Wonder Friend visited this Wonder and left us another AWESOME comment! Thanks for being THAT Wonder Friend, Tyler! :-)

    • Hi, Ian! We think it’s AWESOME that you still visited this Wonder even though you lost your homework. We’re proud of you! Please tell your teacher and classmates that everyone in Wonderopolis says, “Hello!” :-)

  6. Hi Wonderopolis! I am in class with Audry, Tyler, Elise, Elizabeth, Ian and Nathan as well! I really enjoyed this Wonder! Our teacher really likes Wonderopolis, and we all love Wonder Wednesday!

    Kaylee

    • We think it is SO COOL that you and so many of your classmates are commenting on this Wonder, Kaylee! We hope you guys learn something new and WONDERful each time you visit Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hi there JARJAR, we appreciate your comment about voting! While it is important that everyone’s opinion is heard, a person who is 18 or older is seen as an adult. Once you’re 18, your voice will be heard if you exercise your right to vote! Thanks for sharing your comment with us! We hope you ask your parents, teachers and family members about their experience at the polls today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is Presidents’ Day?
  • How often does Presidents’ Day actually fall on George Washington’s birthday?
  • What’s the proper way to spell this holiday?

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Try It Out

How do you plan to celebrate Presidents’ Day? You can honor our current president by discussing recent news stories. What goals has he achieved? What struggles does he face?

You can also get into the holiday spirit without discussing politics. Make some fun crafts, such as an Old Glory flag pennant, a powdered wig or Presidents’ Day finger puppets!

 

Still Wondering

Head on over to EDSITEment’s The President’s Roles and Responsibilities: Understanding the President’s Job lesson to learn about the responsibilities of the U.S. president and your own role as a citizen of a democracy.

 

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Wonder What’s Next?

Guess what? Tomorrow is George Washington’s birthday! Head over to Wonderopolis as we get festive in honor of this fantastic Founding Father!

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