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Presidents' Day 2013: Actually, there’s no such thing

We don't care what that newspaper ad says, there's no official 'Presidents' Day' holiday. By law, it's 'George Washington’s Birthday' honoring the Father of Our Country, and only him.

By Staff writer / February 18, 2013

John Godzieba, portraying Gen. George Washington, walks with his troops toward the boat dock during a re-enactment of Washington's historic crossing of the Delaware River. A strong current kept the re-enactors from making the crossing from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

Joseph Kaczmarek/AP

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WASHINGTON

We know we’re swimming up a creek without a paddle here, but there is no federal Presidents’ Day holiday. We don’t care what your mattress ad says – is that a legal document?

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The official name of Monday’s day off is “George Washington’s Birthday.” It’s supposed to honor the Father of Our Country, and only him. Not Abraham Lincoln, not Franklin D. Roosevelt, not any other of the nation’s former chief executives. Chester A. Arthur will just have to get his own holiday, if he can.

If you still don’t believe us take a look at the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management list of 2013 holidays. It’s the official word for the time off US bureaucrats enjoy. It calls Monday, Feb. 18, “Washington’s Birthday,” with an asterisk. At the bottom of the page the asterisk leads to a footnote.

“This holiday is designated as ‘Washington’s Birthday’ in section 6103(a) of title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees,” says OPM. “Though other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is our policy to always refer to holidays by the names designated in law.”

Washington’s Birthday has been a national holiday since 1885.

In 1968, when Congress was considering a shuffle of three-day weekends with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, some Illinois lawmakers tried to get the February holiday stretched to cover Abe Lincoln by calling it “Presidents Day.” But according to an account in the National Archives Prologue Magazine, Virginia legislators, jealous of their state’s prerogatives, blocked the change and maintained Washington as First in Our Hearts, First in the National League East, and First in Special-Today-Only Used Car Discounts.

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