Presidents' Day 2020

Presidents' Day History, Folklore, and More

March 6, 2019
Mount Rushmore

When is Presidents’ Day 2020? Are Presidents’ Day and George Washington’s birthday the same day? There’s some confusion about this holiday. Here’s a short summary of Presidents’ Day history and why we celebrate!

Presidents’ Day

Contrary to popular belief, the observed federal holiday is actually called “Washington’s Birthday.” Neither Congress nor the President has ever stipulated that the name of the holiday observed as Washington’s Birthday be changed to Presidents’ Day. Additionally, Congress has never declared a national holiday binding in all states and each state decides its own legal holidays. This is why there are some calendar discrepancies when it comes to this holiday.

So how did Washington’s Birthday come to be called Presidents’ Day? Many calendars list the third Monday of February as Presidents’ Day and many U.S. states list the holiday as Presidents’ Day. Of course, all of the 3-day retail store sales are called “Presidents’ Day” sales and this vernacular has also been influential in how we reference the holiday.

When is Presidents’ Day?

Year Presidents’ Day
2020 Monday, February 17
2021 Monday, February 15
2022 Monday, February 21

Presidents’ Day History

Historically, Americans began celebrating George Washington’s Birthday just months after his death, long before Congress declared it a federal holiday. It was not until 1879, under President Rutherford B. Hayes, that Washington’s Birthday became a legal holiday, to be observed on his birthday, February 22.  

Image: George Washington, copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1931 - 1932, RG 148, Records of Commissions of the Legislative Branch, George Washington Bicentennial Commission.

Washington’s birthday was celebrated on February 22 until well into the 20th Century. In 1968, Congress passed the Monday Holiday Law to “provide uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays.” By creating more 3-day weekends, Congress hoped to “bring substantial benefits to both the spiritual and economic life of the Nation.”

Today, George Washington’s Birthday is one of only eleven permanent holidays established by Congress. One of the great traditions followed for decades has been the reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address—which remains an annual event for the Senate to this day.

In a sense, Washington’s birthday helps us reflect on not just the first president but also the founding of our nation, the values, and what Washington calls in his Farewell Address, the “beloved Constitution and union, as received from the Founders.” 

George Washington’s Real Birthday

Although the federal holiday is held on a Monday (the third Monday of February), George Washington’s birthday is observed on February 22. To complicate matters, Washington was actually born on February 11 in 1731! How can that be?

George Washington was originally born when the Julian calendar was being used.  During Washington’s lifetime, people in Great Britain and America switched the official calendar system from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar (something most of Europe had done way back  in 1582).

As a result of this calendar reform, people born before 1752 were told to add 11 days to their birth dates. Those born between January 1 and March 25, as Washington was, also had to add one year to be in sync with the new calendar.

By the time Washington became president in 1789, he celebrated his birthday on February 22 and listed his year of birth as 1732.

To summarize, Washington’s birthday changed from February 11, 1731 (Old Style Julian calendar) to February 22, 1732 (New Style Gregorian calendar).

Myths About Washington

If you think that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and then admitted his wrongdoing by saying to his father, “I cannot tell a lie,” think again. He didn’t say it; he didn’t even chop down the tree! Parson Mason Weems (1759–1825), one of Washington’s biographers, made up the story hoping to demonstrate Washington’s honesty.

This tale is not the only myth about Washington. His wooden dentures? They weren’t made of wood. Instead, they were made of hippopotamus teeth that had been filed down to fit Washington’s mouth.

Cherry Recipes

We say: Celebrate the presidents’ birthdays with a cherry recipe! Here are our favorite cherry recipes for celebrating Washington’s birthday. They are easy to make and beautiful on the plate.

George Washington Quote

Upon entering office, Washington was not convinced that he was the right man for the job. He wrote, “My movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution.” Fortunately for the young country, he was wrong.

Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.
–George Washington (1732–99)

Do you do anything special to celebrate Presidents’ Day? Let us know in the comments!


Reader Comments

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Presidents day

It's not called Presidents Day simply because it is Washington's birthday...its a combination of both Lincolns birthday & Washington's birthday to do away with the 2 separate days we used to celebrate to make it on the 3rd Monday for the 3 day weekend designated by the bill in 1968 that changed several holidays to be 3 day weekend holidays, including my birthday...Memorial Day).

Pres Day

You're wrong. We used to have two holidays, Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday. Some talking head decided having two holidays in the month of February was not necessary, and the birthday holidays were rolled together to become one Hoilday simply called Presidents Day, and it would always be on a Monday to give some workers a 3 day weekend. It was supposed to honor Lincoln and Washington both. Please study your history, I was alive when this happened and I remember it.

GW Birthday/President's Day

And no mention of Abraham Lincoln, who is also included in this holiday. Years and years ago, public school kids would get off for the holidays, whereas parochial school kids didn't... they just got off for holydays! :) And it's sad now, cause the reason for the holiday seems to simply have a sale ...we've lost such meanings to our history.

This is the PC version

The actual reason the date was set in 1968 was because of Martin Luther King's birthday being celebrated in January. Prior to that, both Feb 12 and Feb 22 were holidays. Feb 12 for Lincoln and Feb 22 for Washington. In order to do away with one of the days, they combined the two and came up with President's day. It was all done because of the addition of MLK day in January.

Wrong timing

MLK Day was not declared a Federal Holiday until 1983 and was first observed in 1986. All of the 50 states did not all observe the Holiday until the year 2000.

It was not even brought up in Congress until 1979, almost 11 years after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was enacted.

February 22, 2013

February 22, 2013 Washington's Birthday

George Washington was reincarnated as Robert E. Lee in what might be the world's most obvious example of a 'direct reincarnation'! Alexandria, Virginia was also home to young Robert E. Lee whose father - 'Light-Horse' Harry Lee - was perhaps the general's best-friend. It was he who delivered the famous eulogy of Washington, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen".

Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis who was the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington. Lee's father-in-law was George Washington Custis who was the step-grandson and adopted son of George Washington. At the time of Lee's wedding, Arlington House was a memorial to Washington and had more of his memorabilia than Mount Vernon!

There is a very long list of 'coincidences' re: Washington & Lee. If one is open-mined to Gen. Washington being reincarnated as Gen. Lee, then the question begs, "Who was Lee reincarnated as?" The BIGGEST clue is military genius. Add that he also imitated Washington and became president: Dwight D. Eisenhower. Is it a 'coincidence' that Ike bought a farm near Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg? 'There Are No Coincidences - there is synchronism and alignment' (the title of my 74-page booklet that satisfies the prophecy of the "book/scroll" in The Revelation 5:1-10:10).

Dude... that's some good

Dude... that's some good stuff you're smoking.

Actually don't you know that

Actually don't you know that Robert E. Lee reincarnated as Lady GaGa?? Both believe in intersectional friendships. And both have horse named Traveller. Coincidence???