TODAY IS WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY, BUT NOT PRESIDENTS DAY!
When I was a kid, we used to have a school holiday to honor our first president, it was known as Washington’s Birthday and celebrated on February 22 which really was calculated as his birthday. (Washington was actually born on February 11, 1732, under the Julian calendar in effect at the time he was born, but his birth date is reckoned as February 22 under the Gregorian calendar which was adopted in 1752.) Then in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill intended to create more three-day weekends for federal employees by moving the observance of three existing federal holidays (Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day) from fixed calendar dates to designated Mondays, and by establishing Columbus Day, also to be observed on a Monday, as a new federal holiday. There is no truth to the rumor that Richard Nixon was responsible for changing Washington’s Birthday into President’s Day to commemorate all presidents, by supposedly issuing a proclamation on 21 February 1971 which declared the third Monday in February to be a “holiday set aside to honor all presidents, even myself.” (Personally, because a number of our presidents have been scoundrels or scalawags, I don’t think they all deserve a holiday.) Now, my grandfather’s birthday is February 22, and he joked he wasn’t changing his birthday to the third Monday of the month to give a bunch of politicians an extra day off. Unfortunately, while searching the family history I discovered that grandpa was actually born at home on February 21, but it wasn’t recorded officially in the birth records until the next day. I still celebrate both birthdays on the 22nd. (Note, the photo above is not my grandfather, but one of several portraits of George Washington on display at the St. Louis Art museum.)