(CNN) — This Monday is Presidents Day and George Washington’s birthday. But is it really so?
Americans haven’t celebrated the birthday of the country’s first president on his actual birthday for 50 years. Instead, Presidents Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of February.
This is the explanation.
Washington’s two birthdates
Wouldn’t you like to celebrate your birthday twice in a month? Washington did that during his presidency.
He was born on February 11, 1732, on the Julian calendar, which was in use at the time. But he changed when England and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. His birthday was moved to February 22.
In the Gregorian calendar, a day is added to the calendar every four years to synchronize it with the solar year. We know that extra day as a leap day.
Americans celebrated Washington’s birthday on both dates during his presidency from 1789 to 1797. In 1885, February 22 was established as a holiday for Washington’s birthday.
All this changed 100 years later.
Law on public holidays on Monday
In 1968, Congress debated whether celebrations of the birthdays of Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12, should be combined on a holiday called Presidents’ Day.
But lawmakers from Virginia, the state where Washington is from, opposed it and the initiative did not prosper. However, Congress approved the Bank Holiday Monday Law that year.
This law placed most of the holidays in the country on Mondays, so that Americans had occasional three-day weekends.
Ultimately, this bill went into effect in 1971 and since then Washington’s birthday celebration has been moved from February 22 to the third Monday in February.
But not all states celebrate Presidents’ Day.
Virginia still calls it Washington Day; Alabama calls it Washington Day and Jefferson and Montana call it Lincoln and Washington’s Birthday.