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How Presidents' Day came to be

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

George Washington, the first U.S. president, never did much for his birthday, according to his Mount Vernon estate. Americans celebrated it anyway. In 1879, his birthday became a federal holiday.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

But in 1968, Congress standardized most federal holidays so that Washington's holiday landed on the third Monday of February. That is before Washington's actual birthday, February 22.

SHAPIRO: That led some states to lump Washington's holiday with President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, February 12. And some stores started offering long weekend sales.

KELLY: Today, those stores sell items to government workers and schoolchildren who have off today for Presidents' Day. But Mount Vernon would remind you, today's federal holiday is still officially called George Washington's Birthday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Oliver Dearden
Oliver Dearden is a supervising producer for All Things Considered. He line produces the show, working with producers and editors to get the show on air each day. Before ATC, Dearden was a producer with Weekend Edition and Morning Edition, and a senior producer for BBC radio.