In celebration of today’s federal holiday, we post our friend Jimmie Covington’s yearly rant to set the record straight:
By Jimmie Covington
It’s just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Despite what advertisers, marketers, banks and a lot of public officials, calendar-makers and many news people say, the federal holiday observed on the third Monday in February is not and has never been named Presidents Day.
Since 1879, the federal holiday observed in February has always been George Washington’s Birthday in honor of the nation’s first president. The observance used to be on Feb. 22, but the Monday Holiday Act of 1968 switched the February holiday and several other holidays to Mondays. However, it did not change the names of any of the holidays.
For several decades now, print publication ads and radio and television commercials have heralded Presidents Day sales. The use of the incorrect name for the day became so pervasive years ago that many Americans now believe that the name was changed from Washington’s Birthday.
Custom has it that Washington was particularly truthful. If he knew what has happened to the birthday observance in his honor, he would be sad indeed.
Some post offices are now posting signs that call the holiday Presidents Day. They used to always post it correctly. Probably the worst offenders in calling the holiday observance an incorrect name are schools and libraries. They are supposed to be centers of learning and knowledge, but they certainly don’t exhibit any knowledge when they call the day Presidents Day.
In writing an article about how the use of an incorrect name for the holiday came about, it doesn’t seem to do any good to try to trace the steps that may have occurred. People who want to know more can research the topic.
Others can rest assured that Section 6103(a) of Title 5 of the United States Code says the holiday is Washington’s Birthday. That’s the truth. You can count on it. This year, our first president’s birthday is observed on Feb. 15.
Previously printed in Best Times magazine.