The Presidents Day holiday began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, and its official name remains Washington’s Birthday.
Throughout the 19th century, communities celebrated with parades and fireworks, said Evan Phifer, a research historian at the White House Historical Association. In the late 1800s, Feb. 22 became a federal holiday.
The holiday was moved to the third Monday in February in 1971, creating a three-day weekend for many workers.
“There was fear when the holiday was moved to the third Monday that it would lose the distinction of Washington’s birthday, and people would forget his legacy,” Phifer said.
To some extent, that has happened. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is Feb. 12, and many people now associate both presidents with the holiday. It has also become a retail holiday, where shoppers can get deals on cars, furniture and other goods during Presidents Day sales.