Why Do NWS Forecasts Reference "Washington's Birthday"?

A common question we receive this time of year is in reference to the use of the words "Washington's Birthday" instead of "President's Day" in our forecasts. This reference actually generates a lot of email and phone calls with most people believing the holiday should be called President's Day. Below is an explanation of why we use Washington's Birthday and a bit of background information. There are also a few links to some webpages which provide more details and insight. 

The holiday is officially designated as “Washington’s Birthday” in Section 6103 (a) of Title 5 of the United States Code, which is the law that specifies holidays for Federal employees. Although other institutions such as state and local governments and private businesses may use other names, it is NWS policy to refer to holidays by the names designated in the law. 

There was an effort back in the late 1960s to officially rename the holiday "Presidents Day", intended to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. However, this failed in Congressional committee. The bill, which was then signed into law on June 28, 1968, specified that the Federal holiday would retain the name "Washington’s Birthday". The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of January 1, 1971, established its observance on the third Monday in February. The wording "President's Day" has become widely established and is used on everything from calendars to commercials and so it is commonly accepted wording. Several state governments have actually adopted the wording officially which leads to additional confusion.

There are several websites which discuss this in more detail. The government website that lists all official holidays is http://www.opm.gov/Operating_Status_Schedules/fedhol/2011.asp .

The following websites are not government sites and we do not endorse these sites. However, they do provide detailed explanations of the history and reasoning of this holiday.

Washington's Birthday wikipedia site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington's_Birthday
Snopes article http://www.snopes.com/holidays/presidents/presidentsday.asp .

We hope this clears up any confusion on why we used the terms we do for any and all official holidays. Now back to the weather!

Lashley
NWS Northern Indiana
Updated February 16, 2012



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