Before we get to Presidents’ Day, how about a quick refresher on what qualifies as a federal holiday. A federal holiday, also known as a government-sanctioned holiday, is a holiday on which the government authorizes the closure of federal offices while still ensuring that federal employees get paid. Pretty sweet, right?
But before you start making vacation plans, you should know which holidays make the cut.
Congress has established 11 permanent federal holidays.
- Friday, January 1: New Year’s Day
- Monday, January 18: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Monday, February 15* (or third Monday of February): Washington’s Birthday/Presidents Day
- Monday, May 30: Memorial Day
- Monday, July 4: Independence Day
- Monday, September 5: Labor Day
- Monday, October 10: Columbus Day
- Friday, November 11: Veterans Day
- Thursday, November 24: Thanksgiving Day
- Monday, December 25: Christmas Day
Back in the 1870s, the U.S. government proclaimed New Year’s Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas day as federal holidays. Since then, however, the issue of national holidays has become more polarizing as other religions have sought to see their holy days recognized by the federal government.
What Makes Presidents’ Day A Federal Holiday?
In the late 1800s, a handful of states began observing Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) as a public holiday, though this was not recognized nationwide. The earliest observance of Lincoln’s birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York in 1874. Eventually, Lincoln’s birthday was combined with Washington’s (February 22) as they were commonly viewed as two of the greatest presidents in American history.
In 1879, Congress made the occasion a holiday for government offices in Washington. In 1885, they expanded it to include all federal offices and held the holiday on Washington’s actual birthday until 1971. At that time, the federal holiday was moved to the third Monday in February to place it between Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays.
During the mid-1980s, advertisers began popularizing the term Presidents’ Day in public appearances.
The rest, as they say, is history. So enjoy your day off, ladies and gentlemen!