As holidays go, Presidents Day doesn't get much love.
Unless you are a mattress or furniture retailer, an auto dealer or own a ski resort, Presidents Day has little significance beyond being just another three-day holiday.
It is so nondescript, in fact, that many commonly refer to it as Presidents Day weekend rather than Presidents Day.
To be fair, that was the intent behind the current incarnation of the holiday.
In 1968, after much wrangling, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which officially took effect in 1971 following an executive order from President Richard Nixon.
It was part of a plan to shift a number of holidays to specific Mondays with the express intent of creating three-day holidays. The bill was strongly supported by both organized labor and the nation's retailers. Let's face it, politics hasn't changed much. A coalition with strong support from both labor and business usually gets what it wants in Congress.
This was testament to that maxim.
The act shifted Washington's Birthday from the fixed date of Feb. 22 — Washington's actual birthday — to the third Monday of February.
The nation had unofficially observed Feb. 22 as a holiday from 1800 — the year after Washington's death — until 1879 when President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a bill that cleared the way for it to be an official national holiday.
The 1968 act also shifted Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day from their traditionally designated dates.
At the time of passage, sponsors floated the idea of calling the new holiday Presidents Day because Abraham Lincoln's Feb. 12 birthday was celebrated as a holiday in many states. But senators from Washington's home state of Virginia objected loudly, so the holiday name technically remained as Washington's Birthday.
But by the mid-2000s many state calendars had chosen to call the holiday Presidents Day. And it is no longer about just one man, or, for that matter, even two men. While Washington and Lincoln still dominate the landscape of the day, it is popularly considered a holiday to celebrate all of the nation's chief executives.
There a certain irony in that notion because only four presidents were born in the month of February — Washington, Lincoln, William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan — but none of them is born on a day that can ever be the third Monday of February. Maybe that is fitting. It is difficult to imagine celebrating, for instance, Harrison's birthday and not the birthday of the father of our country.
We think Presidents Day deserves a nod for reminding us to be grateful we live in a country that has effectively transferred power from one chief executive to the next for more than 225 years.
Happy Presidents Day.