Washington’s Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States, who was born on February 22, 1732. Since the Uniform Federal Holidays Act of 1971, its observance can occur between February 15 and February 21 inclusive.
Colloquially, the day is also now widely known as Presidents’ Day and is often an occasion to honor the incumbent president and all persons who have served as president, not just George Washington.
The day is a state holiday in most states, with official names including Washington’s Birthday, Presidents’ Day, President’s Day, and Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday. Depending upon the specific law, the state holiday might officially celebrate Washington alone, Washington and Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday is February 12), or some other combination of U.S. presidents (such as Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson, who was born in April)
Although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, nearly half of the state governments have officially renamed their Washington’s Birthday observances as “Presidents’ Day”, “Washington and Lincoln Day”, or other such designations. (In historical rankings of Presidents of the United States Lincoln and Washington are frequently, but not always, the top two presidents.) However, “Presidents’ Day” is not always an all-inclusive term and might refer to only a selection of presidents.
George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (Old Style) at his parents’ Pope’s Creek Estate near Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. At the time, the entire British Empire, including its North American possessions, was on the Julian calendar; the Empire, not being bound to the Catholic Church, had not yet adopted the modern Gregorian calendar that Catholic countries had adopted in 1582. Consequently, by the 1730s, the Julian calendar used by Britain and the Colonies was eleven days behind the Gregorian, due to leap year differences. Furthermore, the British civil year began on March 25 rather than January 1, so that dates in February ‘belonged’ to the preceding year. In 1752, The British Empire switched to the Gregorian calendar; since then, Americans born prior to 1752, including Washington, have typically had their birthdays recognized under what their birthday would have been under the Gregorian calendar. Since, during the 1700s, February 11 under the Julian calendar would fall as February 22 on the Gregorian, Washington’s birthday has been generally recognized as February 22, 1732.