Hail Washington (and others?) on Presidents’ Day


MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18: Snack on a bowl of cherries today in honor of George Washington on the American federal holiday best known these days as Presidents’ Day. Oddly enough, punctuation of that phrase varies (either with or without an apostrophe) and can’t be settled by looking at the federal declaration because—none exists. Under federal law, this holiday renamed largely by popular culture, is still officially “Washington’s Birthday.”

Of course, that doesn’t stop the White House from chiming in with its photo gallery honoring “President’s Day,” placing the apostrophe before the final “s.” The problem stems from the U.S. Congress, which enacted the original Washington’s Birthday in 1879—set on Washington’s February 22 date of birth. The holiday later was moved by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to the third Monday in February. As the holiday was migrating, various plans arose to create a generic day for all presidents. Set between Lincoln’s and Washington’s dates of birth, early drafts of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act would have reformed Washington’s Birthday to Presidents’ Day—however, this proposal failed in committee.

Count this explanation as fascinating trivia you can use to impress friends and family today. For all intents and purposes, retailers have splashed the “Presidents’ Day” label from coast to coast. The most common method of marking this holiday? Shopping for bargains.

On a hometown level, Presidents’ Day holds a rich history: Washington’s native Alexandria, Virginia, hosts a month-long tribute to the leader, while the George Fest pays an annual visit in Eustis, Florida. (Watch videos and access interactive features at History.com.) A society in Denver, Colorado, ensures that the city never misses a Washington observance, and the Library of Congress opens the Main Reading Room (open to the public only two days per year. The Washington Post reports).

SPECIAL OFFER FOR EAST COAST PHOTOGRAPHERS: Are you a photographer near Washington, D.C.? Bring your camera to the Library of Congress Main Reading Room, where photographers are welcome today. Afterward, Flickr members can upload their photos with the tag, LCspringopen13. Also: visitors to the Library of Congress will have the rare opportunity to view Abraham Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, which hasn’t been exhibited since 2009.


Ever wonder which foods fueled the Father of Our Country? While it’s true that Washington did, indeed, have a soft spot for cherries, he also was partial to fish and hazelnuts. (AllRecipes lists top-rated cherry recipes.) Biographers cite the first President’s appreciation for wine, and his renowned preference of a simple meal over a fancy one.

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