The origin of Presidents Day lay in the 1880s when the birthday of George Washington was celebrated as a federal holiday. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill. The bill moved several federal holidays to Mondays creating three-day weekends. During the debate on the bill, one proposal suggested George Washington’s birthday be renamed Presidents Day to honor the birthdays of both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Washington’s birthday is February 22nd and Lincoln’s birthday is February 12th. Although Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states, it was never an official federal holiday. Following much discussion, Congress rejected the name change.
Despite the rejection, soon after the bill went into effect in 1971, and the observance of Washington’s birthday shifted to the third Monday in February, gradually Presidents Day became the commonly accepted name. Over time, the observance came to be known to many as a day to honor both Washington and Lincoln. However, today another shift has occurred and many see the day as a celebration of all the U.S. Presidents.