In just a few weeks, much of the Nation will celebrate President’s Day (Monday, Feb. 20). The first thing to know is that the observed federal holiday is officially still called Washington’s Birthday. This is because neither Congress nor the President has ever declared the official name to be changed.
Each state also has the ability to determine its own legal holidays, so this is why there might be some calendar discrepancies for the date. But in Illinois, it will be celebrated on the 20th.
The History of the Holiday
The origin of Washington’s actual birthday is somewhat more complicated. While we celebrated his birthday on February 22, he was actually born on February 11. This is because during Washington’s life, the US and England switched their calendar from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian. In this change, people born before 1752 were told to add 11 days to their birthdays.
Americans began celebrating the birthday of their first president every February 22, not long after his death. But it wasn’t declared a legal holiday until 1879. Then, in 1968, Congress made it the third Monday in an attempt to create more 3-day weekends. For the last four decades, a US Senator has read Washington’s Farewell Address while in legislative session. The day later evolved to become President’s Day in the manner below.
The Transition to President’s Day
By calling the observance President’s Day, it broadened the focus from a singular president to reflect on the founding of the nation. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is also on February 12, so the name change essentially consolidates the two famous presidential birthdays, and brings another notable leader into the scope of the holiday.
In Illinois, the day is marked as the third Monday of the month; this year, that’s the 20th.