Today is really a day to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday. Both the federal and New Hampshire wording of the law calls it Washington’s Birthday. So why are we allowing this amazing day to be ‘watered down’ by calling it something else?
Traditionally (from 1799 to 1971) February 22nd was celebrated as Washington’s birthday, and for good reason–because it actually was his birthday. In Illinois and some other places, Lincoln’s Birthday was also celebrated during that month (on or around February 12th).
Along came the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act, a well intended ruling to create more three-day weekends for United States federal workers that moved Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday of February. (Note that Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day was also moved at that time, then in 1980 Veterans Day returned to its November 11th date). But merchandisers (ie companies wishing to make sales) quickly adopted the “President’s Day” idea to celebrate all presidents, and to promote their wares, and have held onto it tenaciously.
The federal government still officially calls this day “Washington’s Birthday, as it is designated as “Washington’s Birthday” in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Federal holidays technically only apply to federal employees, however States often follow suit, or not. Some places still celebrate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays on their actual birth dates.
Ironically, President’s Day NEVER falls on the actual birthday of any American President, even though four presidents were born in this month (Washington, Lincoln William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan). No United States president actually proclaimed that holiday as President’s Day.
What does New Hampshire do?
Both the State of New Hampshire (for NH State Employees) and the New Hampshire Department of Education (for school calendars) calls it Presidents Day ON THEIR CALENDARS, and celebrate it on the same day as the federal holiday – the third Monday in February. The New Hampshire State Supreme Court calendar uses the federal date but calls the day Washington’s Birthday.
As far as I can tell, the New Hampshire State law regarding holidays still considers the day Washington’s Birthday. So if this is true why in the world are we calling it ‘President’s Day’?