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Presidents Day 2010: facts about a holiday with an identity crisis

Presidents Day 2010 is not observed the same way – or even the same day – in all states. Which presidents get top billing depends on where you live.

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Yes, Virginia, there really is a Washington’s Birthday.

Shh! Don’t tell any auto dealers, school boards, or mattress salesmen, but today isn’t officially Presidents’ Day across the United States. The more accurate term would be “Washington’s Birthday,” according to the federal statute designating the third Monday in February in honor of the father of our country, who was born on Feb. 22, 1732. So, why the confusion?

In 1968, an attempt to officially change the day to Presidents’ Day, to celebrate both Abraham Lincoln (who was born Feb. 12, 1809) and Washington on the same day, died in a congressional committee. (Lincoln’s birthday is observed, but it’s never been designated an official federal holiday.) Since that failed effort, 12 states have designated an official Presidents Day.

As far as schoolkids are concerned, as long as they get the day off, you can call it anything you want.

In honor of the day, here are some fun facts about Presid – err, you know what we mean.

1. Blame it on Nixon. In 1971, President Richard Nixon proclaimed one federal holiday, Presidents' Day, honoring all past presidents. Nixon mistakenly thought that a presidential proclamation carried the same longevity as an executive order. Since 1971, the common term has been "President's Day." (No word on why the apostrophe got moved.)

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