How to Celebrate Presidents' Day: Date, History, Meaning and Quotes
Presidents' Day In The USA: History, Meaning, Quotes and Celebrations. Photo Holiday Calendar

When Is Presidents’ Day?

Presidents’ Day is observed annually on the third Monday in February. In 2022, Presidents’ Day will be celebrated on Monday, February 21.

Presidents’ Day Dates


Presidents’ Day


Monday, February 21


Monday, February 20


Monday, February 19


Monday, February 17

Is Presidents' Day a Public Holiday?

Presidents' Day is a public holiday in most US states. Nonetheless, many businesses are open as usual and many stores hold sales on Washington's Birthday. Many delivery services, except for the Post Office, have a regular service and many, but not all, public transit systems operate on regular schedules. Some schools close for the whole week for a mid-winter recess.

According to some government sources, Indiana observes the Washington's birthday holiday in December.

History of Presidents' Day

The original version of the holiday was in commemoration of George Washington's birthday in 1796 (the last full year of his presidency). Washington, according to the calendar that has been used since at least the mid-18th century, was born on February 22nd 1732. According to the old style calendar in use back then, however, he was born on February 11th. In 1796, many Americans celebrated his birthday on the 22nd while others marked the occasion on the 11th instead.

By the early 19th century, Washington's Birthday had taken firm root in the American experience as a bona fide national holiday. Its traditions included Birthnight Balls in various regions, speeches, and receptions given by prominent public figures, and a lot of revelry in taverns throughout the land.

President Chester Alan Arthur was the first to designate Washington's original birth date as a national holiday in 1885.

Then along came Abraham Lincoln, another revered president and fellow February baby (born on the 12th of the month). The first formal observance of his birthday took place in 1865, the year after his assassination when both houses of Congress gathered for a memorial address. While Lincoln's Birthday did not become a federal holiday like George Washington's, it did become a legal holiday in several states.

In 1968, legislation (HR 15951) was enacted that affected several federal holidays. One of these was Washington's Birthday, the observation of which was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd. This act, which took effect in 1971, was designed to simplify the yearly calendar of holidays and give federal employees some standard three-day weekends in the process.

An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act suggested renaming the federal holiday as "Presidents' Day" to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. This proposal failed in committee and on 28 June 1968, the bill was voted on and signed into law, keeping the name "Washington's Birthday".

READ MORE: When Does The US President Take Office?

What day is George Washington's Birthday?

February 11, 1731 or February 22, 1732?

If you could go back in time and ask a young George Washington on what day he was born, he would reply February 11, 1731. Almost 300 years later, we celebrate his birthday as February 22, 1732. Why the change in dates?

When George Washington was born, Great Britain and its colonies, used the Julian calendar which had different dates than the wider used Gregorian calendar. In 1751, Great Britain chose to switch to the Gregorian calendar, causing a fair amount of confusion. For the British to be synchronized with the rest of Europe, there were two major changes required:

*The Julian calendar started each year on March 25, which was the Feast of the Incarnation of Christ. Under the Gregorian Calendar, New Year's Day would now be celebrated on January 1st.

*The other change required dropping eleven days from the middle of September in 1752.

Look closely at the above image from Poor Richard's Almanac. It is the page for September 1752. You will see it reads that “SEPTEMBER hath XIX Days” (or September has 19 days.) A further look shows that the calendar skips from September 2nd to September 14th. People went to sleep on the night of September 2, 1752, and awoke on September 14, 1752, the dates of September 3-13 being removed. This one time change to the calendar caused most birthdates to shift eleven days.

"Presidents' Day" or Washington's Birthday?

Washington's service to his country and high esteem among his countrymen prompted many to honor and celebrate his birthday while he was still alive. Some still chose to celebrate on the 11th, while others chose to celebrate on the 22nd.

February 22 was observed as a federal public holiday until 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared a single holiday to be called Presidents' Day that would be observed on the third Monday in February in order to honor all past presidents.

Due to the legal mechanism that President Nixon used, the name Presidents' Day never became the permanent name of the holiday and the day is still properly called George Washington's Birthday on all official Federal Government calendars and writings.

Ironically, the 22nd can never occur on the third Monday in February.

Washington's Birthday Becomes the First American Holiday

In 1778, in the midst of the War for Independence, the first public celebration of Washington's Birthday took place at Valley Forge. A band of fifers and drummers serenaded General Washington at his quarters.

In 1781 the French at Newport, Rhode Island held a parade in Washington's honor. The French celebrated it on Monday, February 23rd to avoid holding the event on a Sunday. Washington wrote to Count Rochambeau that, "The flattering distinction paid to the anniversary of my birthday is an honor for which I dare not attempt to express my gratitude. I confide in your sensibilities to interpret my feelings for this, and for the obliging manner in which you are pleased to announce it."

George Washington's Birthnight Ball

The custom of the Birthnight Ball originated in Britain to commemorate and celebrate the birthday of the king. Following the Declaration of Independence, Americans continued this tradition. Absent a monarch, Americans turned to the next closest figure, George Washington.

The first recorded Washington Birthnight Ball was held in Williamsburg in 1779.

Newspapers reported that Alexandria was the site of a ball in honor of Washington's birthday on February 11, 1780.

The February 7, 1787 issue of the Times and Alexandria Advertiser invited all "Ladies of Alexandria and its vicinity" to Gadsby's Tavern and informed gentlemen as to where they could purchase tickets for Washington's Birthnight Ball to be held in three days.

The last Birthnight Ball was held in February 1799, just ten months before Washington's death. It is unknown how many Birthnight Balls he attended.

What Do People Do on President's Day?

Washington's Birthday officially honors the life and work of George Washington, the first president of the United States. The day commemorates past presidents of the USA. Washington's Birthday is sometimes known as Presidents' Day. This is because while most states have adopted Washington's Birthday, some states officially celebrate Presidents' Day.

Some states pay particular attention to Abraham Lincoln, as his birthday was also in mid-February. In the weeks or days leading up to the holiday, schools often organize events and lessons for students about the presidents of the United States and George Washington in particular. It is a popular day for stores to start their sales.

Presidents Days Around the World

Country Holiday Occasion Date
Kazakhstan First President Day Observes the election of Kazakhstan’s first president after gaining independence. December 1
Palau Presidents Day A day to honor the president and the presidency in general. June 1
Botswana Presidents Day A one-day public holiday for remembering the Presidents of the country July 19
Tajikistan Presidents Day The country started celebrating this day recently from 2016 onwards. November 16

Presidential quotes in honor of Presidents’ Day

How to Celebrate Presidents' Day: Date, History, Meaning and Quotes
Photo Holiday Calendar

1.“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”- Abraham Lincoln

2.“The harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.” – George Washington

3.“I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.” – Woodrow Wilson

4.“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

5.“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” – James Madison

6.“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

7.“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman

8.“Posterity — you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” – John Quincy Adams

9.“The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly.” – John F. Kennedy

Did you know?

Martin Van Buren was the first president to be born as a citizen of the United States. The presidents before him were born as British subjects

Four presidents were born during February - Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, and William Harrison.

The tallest U.S. President was Abraham Lincoln at 6 feet 4 inches (193 centimeters), while the shortest was James Madison at 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters).

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