"The Washington Post" had an intriguing blog post on Presidents’ Day or Presidents' Day, depending on how you define the holiday. Valerie Strauss notes the holiday is a bit ambiguous. Which president is being honored on February 17 she wonders? Or is more than one president being celebrated? The online literature is unclear.
Technically the third Monday of February was legally set aside to honor Washington’s birthday which actually falls on February 22nd. But even timeanddate.com notes that Presidents' Day honors more than one president and lists the holiday as Presidents’ Day.
In addition to Washington, several other commander-in-chiefs were born in February including Ronald Reagan, William Henry Harrison and Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln was born on February 12. Some states celebrate his birthday on the actual day. Other states recognize and attach his birthday to Presidents' Day.
In a less romantic fact, Presidents’ Day may not be so much about the presidents as it is about adding more three day weekends to the calendar. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act was established in the 1960s to ensure that federal holidays fell on the same predetermined Mondays. This would give workers a three day weekend and sought to reduce absenteeism.
Setting Presidents’ Day on the third Monday of February became part of the bill.
If you and your class could decide which presidents should be honored on Presidents’ Day, which ones would they be? Post your answers in the comments section below. Check out the American Studies Collection: Presidential Portraits in PBS Learning Media to help with your research.