US Observes Presidents’ Day

Posted February 20th, 2012 at 1:05 am (UTC-5)
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Millions of Americans are getting a day off from work Monday to observe the birthday of the first U.S. president, George Washington.

While the federal holiday officially recognizes Washington, the day is often referred to as Presidents' Day as a broader celebration of the nation's leaders.

Most U.S. government offices and buildings are closed, as are banks, the stock market and the U.S. Postal Service. Many stores use the long holiday weekend to run special sales.

February is the birth month of two of the most respected U.S. presidents — George Washington and Abraham Lincoln .

A holiday honoring Washington's birthday was first officially celebrated in 1885. He was born on February 22, but Congress passed an act in 1968 that moved the official observance to the third Monday in February.

The move was part of an effort to shift several holidays to specific Mondays in order to give workers more long weekends throughout the year. But in a quirk of the calendar, honoring George Washington on the third Monday of the month means the holiday can never fall on his actual birthday.