Presidents’ Day is officially called Washington’s Birthday. It is a federal holiday that specifically celebrates the life of George Washington who was the first president of the United States.
Most states also have the day as a state holiday. For this purpose, it is more commonly referred to as Presidents’ Day, although there are actually fifteen different versions of the name in total. Different states tend to use different names and most of the differences tend to come because of the placement of the apostrophe.
The holiday first began to be celebrated in 1879, and from this date until 1971, it was celebrated on 22nd February. It was also known as Washington’s Birthday throughout this period.
In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed. This changed the dates of a number of federal holidays – including Washington’s Birthday – so that they always fell on a Monday to give people a long weekend. This meant that the holiday would now be celebrated on the third Monday in February, regardless of the date.
This change meant that the day was no longer celebrated on 22 February. The third Monday of February can only fall on dates from 15 to 21. This change may help to explain why the focus of the day moved away from just George Washington.
From the mid-80s, the name Presidents’ Day started to be really pushed as the preferred name for the holiday. The government paid for advertising campaigns to promote the name Presidents’ Day and the fact that it should celebrate the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. Today it is generally considered as a holiday to honor all of those who have served as President.