Presidents' Day in the US and how it got its name

Federal holiday technically still called Washington's Birthday

Monday is Presidents' Day in the US, with many private businesses, banking institutions and the federal government closed.

The holiday dates back to 1879, when the US government made George Washington's birthday of February 22 a federal holiday in honour of the nation's first president.

In 1968, the US Congress changed the law so the holiday always falls on the third Monday of February.

Officially, the holiday is still called Washington's Birthday.

Over time, it has colloquially morphed into Presidents' Day, with some historians saying it should also recognise Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday was February 12.

Some federal agencies, including the National Weather Service, continue to refer to Presidents' Day as Washington's Birthday.

For millions of Americans, federal holidays come as a welcome opportunity to earn some overtime or to take a day off.

Federal law does not require private employers to give their workers any paid time off. Most private companies offer some paid leave, but allowances are often minimal compared to other countries. In the UAE, people get about 30 days off.

Presidents' Day has also drawn some controversy as America re-examines its troubled past, with some asking whether schoolchildren should be taught more nuanced histories of the country's former presidents.

The statue of the sixteenth US president, Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, is seen at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. EPA
Updated: February 21, 2022, 5:28 PM
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