February 18th, 2013
10:02 AM ET

Uncle Sam says it's not Presidents Day

If you're off school or work Monday in observance of Presidents Day, you've got it all wrong, at least according to the federal government.

Federal offices are closed Monday because it's Washington's Birthday, a holiday to honor the first U.S. president, George Washington.

Confused? Here's what the National Archives says on its website:

"This holiday is designated as 'Washington's Birthday.' Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is Federal policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in the law."

Washington's actual birthday was February 22, and that's when the holiday was originally celebrated. However, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act , which designated the third Monday in February as Washington's Birthday, beginning in 1971.

The Presidents Day moniker evolved later, at least partly to honor Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was February 12, but some hoped it could be a day to honor all presidents.

Of course, states, local governments and businesses are not bound to honor the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, so they can call Monday whatever holiday they like or not have one at all.

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Filed under: Holidays
soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. Fubarack

    This makes sense, because if the holiday was centered around this current President, the holiday would have to be cancelled.

    February 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul


      Obama won the election for President - he IS the President of the United States - Get over it!

      February 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • mgc6288

      Paul- You're right he won by giving voters like yourself free stuff. Hard to compete with someone who just hands out the free money!

      February 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • TomGI

      I didn't get my "free stuff". When will it arrive?

      February 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angela Birch

      Wrong, the president doesn't have the power to give anything to anyone. No president has that power. You righties must have slept through civics are were home schooled. Only the House of representatives has the power to spend money or allocate it. Only the House of Reps has the ability to give away free stuff. If you think the GOP house authorized "free stuff" to get Obama elected you are as dim as Romney thought you were. Obama won because Romney was a lose. Obama was vunerable because of the recession's recovery was slow., but Romney lied too consistantly on things that could be easily checked, was dismissive of anyone who wasn't wealthy, and was inept diplomatically. There was probably only one candidate who could have beaten Obama, Huntsman, and he wasn't dihonest enough or crazy enough to become a GOP candidate. Your lie that 51% of the population sold their vote makes clear your disdain for the American voter. You see the voter as dishonest unless they vote for your liar.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • FURepublicans

      Lol...listen to all the whining from some conservative teabillies They still can't get over losing the election...obsessed much?

      February 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Barry is definitely not complaining golfing with the 1 percent. If other presidents can dine and wine with the rich, why can't Barry the king.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Al


      February 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom U


      Kind of like Democrats still complaining about Gore's loss to Bush?

      These arguments bore me.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin Cameron

      cry baby, Obama is president, he is a great one, and most American's think so. You Christian haters will have god judgment put upon you.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • sadlyperturbed

      During 2 terms as President, Bush took spent all of part of 477 days at Camp David, on retreats and made 77 trips to his Crawford Ranch, in Texas, where he spent all or part of 490 days, on his Ranch.
      The total number of days of vacation or retreat President Bush took, while in office over a period of 8 years was 967 days, or 32% of his total time in office, was spent on vacations or retreats.

      February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Taxpayer

    Just another excuse for government employees to take another day off at taxpayer expense.

    February 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Banks, schools, most businesses, all close for the holiday....not just government employees.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolpaul

      No legitimate businesses are closed on Presidents day. Plenty of teachers are working "professional days" while students are off.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheila

      We used to have two days off – both Abraham Lincoln's Birthday and George Washington's Birthday. When the Federal Government turned Washington's Birthday into a Monday holiday, they dropped Abraham Lincoln's completely. So people called it President's Day because it took the place of both presidents' birthdays. And plenty of legitimate businesses take this day off – I lived in the DC area for most of my life, and most office-based businesses are closed. But now that I live in Raleigh NC, only about half seem to be.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irritated

      Not schools here! The students are out for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but NOT Washington's birthday, president's day or whatever you choose to call it. Instead of having a day out half way between Christmas break and spring break, they now are out 2 weeks after the Christmas break and then have 2 months to go until the next holiday.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Banker Jeff

      My bank (and employer) is open today and on MLK Day. Not ALL banks are closed today. Yes, the Federal Reserve is closed, so transactions today do not run umtil tomorrow.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      We used to have a Washington Birthday holiday AND a Lincoln Birthday holiday – BUT when it was decided to add a Martin Luther King Day, the Federal government did not want to ADD another holiday, so they combined The Washington and LIncoln Days into ONE holiday called Presidents Day AND created a Martin Luther King Jr holiday.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ralph

      only in America would they complain about too many vacation days off, and yet still have the least days off of any first world country

      February 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rudy

    One way to reduce the deficit is to get rid of these stupid Federal Holidays that Washignton's birthday and Columbus Day. If you are going to pay Federal workers anyway theymay as well be at work

    February 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Not all parts of the United States celebrate Columbus Day. It is not a public holiday in California, Nevada and Hawaii. Moreover, Native Americans’ Day is celebrated in South Dakota, while Indigenous People’s Day is celebrated in Berkeley, California.

      Banks, schools, and other businesses usually, but not always, close for Columbus Day....not just government workers get the holiday.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • HistoryGeek

      Are you giving up your paid holidays as well?

      February 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheila

      Also, in Virginia, the third Monday in January used to be called Lee-Jackson Day, in honor of the Confederacy. But the Federal government turned that into MLK day, which caused an interesting conflict. Sometimes you'll see businesses that are closed that say they are closed for Lee Jackson Day only, and places like the Fairfax County Courthouse are closed on the third Monday for MLK day, but also closed the Friday before for Lee Jackson. Again, an interesting conflict.

      February 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jill

      Oh – and – I am a federal government employee. Without us, there is a lot of work that would not be done. And TRUST ME ON THIS ONE – I ALSO PAY FEDERAL TAXES ON MY INCOME. so I am actually paying some of my own salary. I work for my salary and some of my pay goes to take care of people who do not work at all.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. winston smith

    "One way to reduce the deficit is to get rid of these stupid Federal Holidays that Washignton's birthday and Columbus Day. If you are going to pay Federal workers anyway theymay as well be at work"

    I'd guess that what Congress takes in is way worse than what some lowly civil servant makes. Why don't we start with our anger in the right place? Otherwise it's just a bunch of blah blah blah and nothing will change. Go after CONGRESS first. They're the ones making six figures plus benefits for life on OUR DIME.

    February 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. canuck

    Who cares...

    February 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. james

    @palintwi – first off, most would not want a sarah palin day, she is apparently as ignorant as you are. secondly if you want to be taken serious stop with he juvenile broad remarks. I challenge you to list 1 thing the tea party supports that you do not. they have asked for nothing than for our rights to be upheld. There are a few loud mouths that have some odd ideas for sure, but that goes for all parties.

    February 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J Stebenne

    When I was in grade school we used to have TWO 'holidays' in February ... Lincoln's birthday and Washington's brithday. Then they changed it to one holiday .. on the third Monday in February – and it was called "President's Day". Now after 40 years they're going to change it (or are they clarifying)? Are they admitting they threw Lincoln under the bus? I'm sure there are others out there who remember there used to be two holiidays in February. Do you really think EVERY CALENDAR has been wrong for the last 40 years? Naw ... it's the government changing their story ... AGAIN.

    February 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      What story got changed?

      February 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. upstateny

    What if you're not a student
    What if you're not postal worker/government worker
    What if you're not a bank
    What if you're on government assistance/SS disability...everyday is president's day
    ...........I guess that makes you a middle class worker in the private sector...the ones that Obama/Biden were going to help. I don't care about president's day...all I care about is Health Care the rising costs and lack of care!

    February 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay Bee

    I always thought it was for all presidents... Hood info

    February 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Fatty Arbuckle

    How can this silly little article generate such partisan rancor and anger?

    February 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JADMAN

      People are so polarized – and cannot really tell you why without spitting – they would argue with Ed McMahon if he came back to life and guaranteed them 10 millions dollars a year for life.

      February 18, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      Because there are a lot of losers in our society who don't know who to be angry at so they just vent at everything.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. me

    WHEW...glad that was cleared up. Thanks, Brad Lendon!

    February 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ObamaDAY

    We need a national holiday for Obama. Where every working class person works but all the money goes to all the people who wont work or get a job.... oh wait, thats everyday that Obama has been in office. Nevermind.

    February 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Djesus Uncrossed

    Celebrating a great president, a true American patriot and national hero, George W. Bush.

    February 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • sadlyperturbed

      Bummer for you that you didn't get a single reaction from others on here, isn't it?

      February 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tommie

    They wont make it a paid holiday they will lose out on to much income tax money from us poor souls who have to work today

    February 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jon

    Isnt it interesting only Gov. workers and Banks can actually observe Presidents day! Rest of us have to work!

    February 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      Cause the rest of us are the only ones that work anyway.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted

      You can have President's day, "Super Tuesday" should be a mandatory national holiday that all businesses are closed except for polling stations and any support staff.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • progressiveperceptions

      Wrong. I work at TCF corporate and we do not have the day off.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Actually ...

      There are some non-government, non-school, non-bank companies that have today off. But sadly, most of us don't.

      February 18, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • VJN

      The bank where I work was open!

      February 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Its a free country you can take the day off if you want, heck you can take the week off and even the month off if you want.

      February 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • CharonPDX

      Did you not read the article at all?

      "only" Gov workers and banks "can" celebrate "Presidents day"?

      No. It's actually the opposite – Federal Government workers don't celebrate "Presidents Day" at all, they celebrate "Washington's Birthday".

      And I'm neither a government employee (at any level) or do I work for any financial institution – I work for a software company – yet I get today off.

      February 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
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