Presidents’ Day 2024: Celebrating the Legacy of American Presidents

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the third Monday in February. This national holiday holds great significance as it honors the legacy and achievements of the country’s past and present presidents. The holiday was originally established in 1885 to commemorate President George Washington’s birthday, eventually becoming popularly known as Presidents’ Day after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1971. Today, Presidents’ Day is seen as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents and their contributions to the nation.

The Origins of Washington’s Birthday

The story of Presidents’ Day begins in 1800, following the death of George Washington, the first president of the United States. His birthday, which falls on February 22, became a day of remembrance and celebration. During the 1832 centennial of his birth and the start of the construction of the Washington Monument in 1848, the nation united in honoring Washington’s significant contributions to American history.

While Washington’s Birthday was initially an unofficial observance in the 1800s, it wasn’t until the late 1870s that it became a federal holiday. Senator Stephen Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas proposed the measure, and in 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law. The holiday initially only applied to the District of Columbia but was expanded to the entire country in 1885. It became the first nationally recognized federal holiday to celebrate the life of an individual American.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act and the Birth of Presidents’ Day

In the late 1960s, Congress proposed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to shift the celebration of several federal holidays to predetermined Mondays, creating more three-day weekends for workers. The act aimed to reduce employee absenteeism and boost retail sales. One of the key provisions of this act was the combination of Washington’s Birthday with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12.

Although Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, a major proponent of the act, suggested renaming the holiday Presidents’ Day, the proposal faced opposition from lawmakers in George Washington’s home state of Virginia and was eventually dropped. Nevertheless, the act was passed in 1968 and took effect in 1971 under President Richard M. Nixon’s executive order. Washington’s Birthday was shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February, creating a long weekend for Americans to celebrate the contributions of their presidents.

Presidents’ Day: Honoring All U.S. Presidents

As the shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day occurred, many Americans began to view the holiday as an opportunity to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Marketers capitalized on the three-day weekend, advertising “Presidents’ Day” bargains across the country. By the mid-1980s, Washington’s Birthday was commonly referred to as Presidents’ Day, and several states officially changed the name on their calendars.

Today, Presidents’ Day is popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all American presidents, past and present. While George Washington and Abraham Lincoln remain the most recognized leaders, some states have chosen to customize the holiday by adding other significant figures. For example, Arkansas celebrates civil rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates alongside Washington, and Alabama commemorates Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Presidents’ Day Celebrations and Traditions

Like Independence Day, Presidents’ Day is traditionally viewed as a time of patriotic celebration and remembrance. During the Great Depression, portraits of George Washington adorned newspapers and magazines every February 22, symbolizing hope and resilience. In 1932, the date was used to reinstate the Purple Heart, a military decoration created by Washington to honor soldiers killed or wounded while serving in the armed forces.

In its modern form, Presidents’ Day serves as an opportunity for patriotic and historical groups to stage celebrations, reenactments, and other events. Many states require public schools to educate students about the accomplishments of U.S. presidents in the days leading up to Presidents’ Day. It is a time to reflect on the nation’s history and the impact of its leaders.

What Is Closed on Presidents’ Day?

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday, which means that many institutions and organizations are closed in observance. Banks, schools, and non-essential federal workers have the day off. The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ are closed for trading, and the post office does not operate on Presidents’ Day. It is a time for individuals to relax, spend time with family, and engage in activities that honor and celebrate the country’s presidents.


Presidents’ Day is a significant federal holiday in the United States that honors the legacy and achievements of American presidents. Originally established to commemorate George Washington’s birthday, it has now become a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present. The holiday serves as an opportunity for reflection on the nation’s history, the impact of its leaders, and the values they represent. Whether through educational activities, patriotic celebrations, or simply enjoying a day off, Presidents’ Day allows Americans to show appreciation for the individuals who have shaped the nation.