At the federal level, the third Monday in February is celebrated as Washington’s Birthday.
President’s Day will next be observed on Monday, February 20, 2023.
For the State of California, the third Monday of February is called President’s Day, and some California institutions (the California Department of Education is one of them) recognize “Washington Day” on the same third Monday of February.
There is confusion around this holiday because it is observed in many different ways across the nation. State tradition may be the guiding factor and Washington’s birthday may be observed as a standalone in some states while commemorating Washington and Lincoln together is a tradition in other states.
Others may observe Presidents Day by including those immortalized on Mount Rushmore (Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt) or all presidents in general. Washington’s Birthday, as a federal holiday, is a three-day weekend for federal employees thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968.
Multiple sources report that George Washington didn’t like the attention something like a birthday celebration might bring. In spite of this, the first Washington’s Birthday observance took place while he was still in office in 1796.
That wasn’t done as a national holiday, President Chester Arthur had to codify it as a national holiday in 1885. Celebrating the day as a national observance meant formal balls in some parts of the country and drinking parties in others.
Washington ultimately ended up sharing his holiday with other “February presidents” including Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, and Ronald Reagan. (That doesn’t mean they are all honored on Presidents Day in California, but future consideration of a Presidents Day federal holiday might include them if Congress chooses to approve a new interpretation of the day.)
Lincoln’s birthday was observed the year following his assassination, 1885. Some states adopted Lincoln’s birthday as a formal holiday but many did not. Many years later in 1968, HR 15951 was drafted; an act that codified when federal holidays were observed. The House Resolution created some standardized three-day holidays for federal employees including Washington’s Birthday.
An early version of the Resolution included mention of a name change to Presidents Day to more formally recognize both Washington and Lincoln, but this did not survive to the final law.
By the time the 1980s hit, many retailers were using Presidents Day instead of Washington’s Birthday to promote sales and special offers.
A state holiday typically means government agencies are closed, and while some businesses used to close down for the holiday, some sources report that around the late 1980s retailers stopped closing, choosing to have sales and events to attract more customers instead.
State-sponsored universities and other campuses in the state may also close, but some schools may choose to remain open, depending on the institution. There are often community-based events, local sales, concerts, and other in-person activities scheduled for the day but not necessarily president-themed.
- Alabama George Washington’s Birthday
- Alaska Presidents’ Day
- Arizona Lincoln/Washington Presidents’ Day
- Arkansas George Washington’s Birthday
- California Washington’s Birthday
- Colorado Washington-Lincoln Day
- Connecticut Washington’s Birthday
- Delaware President’s Day
- Florida Washington’s Birthday
- Georgia Washington’s Birthday
- Hawaii Presidents’ Day
- Idaho Washington’s Birthday
- Illinois Presidents Day
- Indiana Washington’s Birthday
- Iowa Washington’s Birthday
- Kansas Washington’s Birthday
- Kentucky Washington’s Birthday
- Louisiana Washington’s Birthday
- Maine Washington’s Birthday
- Maryland Washington’s Birthday
- Massachusetts Washington’s Birthday
- Michigan Washington’s Birthday
- Minnesota Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday
- Mississippi Washington’s Birthday
- Missouri Washington’s Birthday
- Montana Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays
- Nebraska President’s Day
- Nevada Washington’s Birthday
- New Hampshire Washington’s Birthday
- New Jersey Washington’s Birthday
- New Mexico Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday
- New York Washington’s Birthday
- North Carolina Washington’s Birthday
- North Dakota Washington’s Birthday
- Ohio Washington-Lincoln Day
- Oklahoma President’s Day
- Oregon President’s Day
- Pennsylvania President’s Day
- Rhode Island Washington’s Birthday
- South Carolina Washington’s Birthday
- South Dakota Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday
- Tennessee Washington’s Birthday
- Texas Presidents’ Day
- Utah Washington and Lincoln Day
- Vermont Washington’s Birthday
- Virginia Washington’s Birthday
- Washington Presidents’ Day
- West Virginia Washington’s Birthday
- Wisconsin President’s Day
- Wyoming Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday
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Joe Wallace has been covering real estate, mortgage and financial topics since 1995. His work has appeared on ABC, The Pentagon Channel, Veteran.com plus a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.