The federal holiday honoring ‘George Washington’ was originally implemented by an ‘Act of Congress’ in (1879) for government offices in ‘Washington’ and expanded in (1885) to include all federal offices. As the first federal holiday to honor an ‘American President’, the holiday was celebrated on ‘Washington’ actual birthday, February 22. On January 1, (1971), the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the ‘Uniform Monday Holiday Act’. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name “Washington’s Birthday” in some sense a misnomer, since it never occurs on ‘Washington’ actual birthday, either February 11 or February 22.
Today, the February holiday has become well known for being a day in which many stores, especially car dealers, hold sales. Until the late (1980), corporate businesses generally closed on this day, similar to present corporate practices on ‘Memorial Day’ or ‘Christmas Day’. With the late (1980) advertising push to rename the holiday, more and more businesses are staying open on the holiday each year, and, as on ‘Veterans Day’ and ‘Columbus Day’, most delivery services outside of the ‘United States Postal Service’ now offer regular service on the day as well. Some public transit systems have also gone to regular schedules on the day. Many colleges and universities hold regular classes and operations on ‘Presidents Day’.
Various theories exist for this, one accepted reason being to make up for the growing trend of corporations to close in observance of the ‘Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.’ Conversely, many schools and business formerly open on this day began closing after the observance of ‘Dr. King’ birthday holiday became prevalent. This was done in order not to diminish ‘Washington’ birthday in comparison to ‘King’. However, when reviewing the ‘Uniform Monday Holiday Bill’ debate of (1968) in the ‘Congressional Record’, one notes that supporters of the ‘Bill’ were intent on moving federal holidays to Mondays to promote business.
Both ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Washington’ birthdays are in February. In historical rankings of ‘Presidents of the United States’ both ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Washington’ are frequently, but not always, the top two presidents.