Today is actually the celebration of George Washington’s birthday and the law is written as such. Legally, there is no Presidents’ Day.
Confused? Me, too! But if you look for the law that designates the holiday, you will find that President Richard Nixon signed “Washington’s Birthday” into law.
It wasn’t long after that event that the day morphed into the present-day President’s Day, with the intention of honoring all those who have held the office of President of the United States. You can thank not only the holiday being changed to the third Monday in February, but also marketing to take advantage of the newly-formed three-day weekend.
By the early 2000s, at least half of the states officially listed Presidents’ Day on their calendars, instead of Washington’s Birthday.
Wait! There’s more confusion about the date.
Washington was born on February 11, 1731, but today his birthday is acknowledged to have been February 22.
When Washington was born, the British Empire, including the colonies in North America, used the Julian calendar. By 1731, that calendar was eleven days behind the Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar currently used by the United States and the United Kingdom. When the British Empire adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, it recognized previous dates as eleven days later in order to align with the Gregorian calendar. And, voila!, Washington’s birthday became February 22!
What a confusing and fraught holiday! Sonja