Were you off today for, uh, umm … ?

Q: What day is it?

A: Monday.

Q: No jackass, I mean you are off work today. What holiday is it?

A: Uh, it is Happy Monday Off?

Q: C’mon now.

A: It is Presidents Day.

The first president is honored today with a holiday that includes apostrophes, dashes, another president and a civil rights leader.
The first president is honored today with a holiday that includes apostrophes, dashes, another president and a civil rights leader.

And things just go downhill from there. This pretended conversation ends in an answer, that is partially correct. It all just depends where you are and what you call this Federal and bank holiday.

If you work for the federal government then today is officially known as George Washington’s Birthday. Or as we used to joke as a kid, George Birthington’s Washday. If, however, you are a state employee you may have a different answer and perhaps even use varied punctuation of the holiday name.

Take Texas, for example. Okay, I am a Texan and damned proud of it. Who isn’t? Those who don’t like Texas, perhaps. Those folks might add to take Texas, “Please!” The name of today’s holiday, according to the State of Texas, is Presidents’ Day. Ditto for Presidents’ Day in Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

If you are in Alaska, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming, you would be celebrating “President’s Day.” That it is a single president’s day — the apostrophe “s” day. Hmm, I wonder who that president would be?

To further confuse the populace of this great nation, some states figure folks already know whose damned birthday it is. In Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oregon, the state fathers got rid of that pesky apostrophe altogether — it being “Presidents Day.”

Virginia, the state of the first president’s birth and death, gives him “George Washington Day.”

Like the federal government, the state of Massachusetts celebrates “George Washington’s Birthday.”

The other states share the day with Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12 and had never been honored with a holiday. That is despite that some states honor Lincoln’s counterpart in the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. Utah skips the apostrophe-s and call the holiday Washington and Lincoln Day. Colorado and Ohio likewise omits the apostrophe and instead uses a dash — Washington-Lincoln Day. Alabama, unsurprisingly holding a grudge, leaves Lincoln out and substitutes Thomas Jefferson for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Day. Arkansas chooses to link the first president with someone probably not know out of the state who is not a president but, probably surprising to some, was a civil rights activist. George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day honors the “Father of Our Country” with a publisher of a black newspaper who played an important part in the 1957 integration crisis involving efforts to enroll black students in Little Rock’s all white Central High School.

Most of the confusion over the whole Washington and President Day “thing,” notice I use no apostrophe or s with the latter, stems from the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971. That federal law established 3-day-weekend holidays and moved Washington’s real birthday of February 22 to the third Monday in February. A push to create a holiday honoring presidents dates back to the early 1950s. Some congressional members actually wanted the day to honor all presidents but others believed the day often falling between Washington’s and Lincoln’s actual birthdays would cause problems. Compounding matters President Nixon referred to the holiday as Presidents Day.

Today, the day is mostly a holiday for government employees and those in the financial industry. It likewise is a day of traditional sales, especially in department sales. The average Joe, or Jane or George, doesn’t take the day off. It is just one more facet of government where many of the “Big-R Republicanism” persuasion fail in the argument that the federal government is a bogeyman of free-market captialism or is of a socialistic bent.

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.