Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Uniform Monday Holiday Act

In 1880 the United States Congress declared February 22nd, George Washington’s birthday, a federal holiday for all government employees working in the District of Columbia. In 1885 that federal holiday was expanded to include those working in government offices in the entire United States. [1] Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, was signed into law on June 28, 1968 and took effect on January 1, 1971. [2] This act is responsible for moving the federal holiday celebration of George Washington’s birthday from February 22nd to what we commonly refer to as Presidents’ Day. Presidents’ Day is now celebrated on the third Monday in February, which will never be the 22nd of February as it can only fall on February 15th - 21st. [3]

According to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the third Monday in February is officially known as Washington’s Birthday. Referring to the day as Presidents’ Day is part of a common confusion that stems from the fact that the third Monday of February falls between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. As well as the fact that before the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act many entities celebrated both Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th) and George Washington’s birthday (February 22nd) with a day free from work and school and after the enactment most entities only closed for the third Monday of February. When stores started pushing “Presidents’ Day” sales in the mid-1980’s the unofficial name for the day really took hold.

Washington’s Birthday was not the only holiday to be affected by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Before the act Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30th, but afterwards it was and still is celebrated on the last Monday in May. The federal observance of Columbus Day was moved from October 12th to the second Monday in October. Upon the establishment of Martin Luther king, Jr. Day in 1983 the holiday was placed on the third Monday in January rather than King’s birth date of January 15th. Veterans Day has experienced the most number of changes. It was originally celebrated on November 11th, but as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act it was moved to the fourth Monday in October. In 1978 Veterans day was moved back to November 11th where it remains today. [4]

Sources:
[1] Washington’s Birthday (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington’s_Birthday).
[2] Uniform Monday Holiday Act (http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/winter/images/uniform-monday-holiday-law.jpg). National Archives and Records Administration.
[3] Uniform Monday Holiday Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Monday_Holiday_Act).

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