New Hampshire Tidbit: There is NO President’s Day in February

George Washington Birthday

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 GWs birthdaydesignated 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’?

*Additional Reading*

Holiday Pay Practices in New Hampshire

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3 Responses to New Hampshire Tidbit: There is NO President’s Day in February

  1. Thank you so much Janice. I remember when I went to school it was Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays. I thought they had changed it to President’s Day, at one time or another.

    • Janice Brown says:

      No one changed the law. Legally it IS Washington’s Birthday. I bugs me that we have allowed stores who both coined and make money from the “President’s Day” term to change our concept of the day.

  2. Amy says:

    Maybe it was just a NYS holiday, but when I was a child Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 was also a holiday. My recollection is that they combined the two holidays into one and placed it on the Monday in between February 12 and February 22, but maybe it just seemed that way in NYS. I am sure Lincoln’s birthday wasn’t a holiday in all 50 states, especially Southern states where he might not have been so universally viewed as a great President. Interesting post!

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