True, many refer to today's national day off as Presidents' Day, but federal law actually lists the holiday as Washington's Birthday.
We don't care what that mattress sale ad says – there is no such thing as a national Presidents’ Day. It’s a myth, like the story about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and throwing it across the Potomac at Abe Lincoln.
Yes, there is a federal day off on Feb. 20, 2012. But its official name is “Washington’s Birthday.” We’re supposed to celebrate the life and legacy of the Father of Our Country, not the rest of those Mount Rushmore guys. They can get their own holiday. Thomas Jefferson, we’re looking at you.
OK, we know we're swimming upstream here, because every sale ad in the US this morning will talk about special Presidents' Day prices. Other media routinely refer to this as Presidents' Day. It is Presidents' Day in the popular mind. It just isn't Presidents' Day in US law.
Let's look at the record: Washington’s Birthday has been a federal holiday since 1885. For more than 80 years it was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, Feb. 22. This ensured that proponents of, say, William Henry Harrison didn’t try to muscle in on the proceedings.
But by the middle of the 20th century some US lawmakers began to agitate for a more generalized recognition of presidential achievement. In 1968, this desire collided with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, legislation that aimed to shuffle certain US holidays around to create three-day weekends for increased leisure and sellathon purposes.