The holiday is popularly known as President’s Day but it is officially recognized as “Washington’s Birthday” through a Congressional bill passed in 1879. Regrettably, the recognition will never fall on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. The Monday Holiday Law, passed in 1968, creates 3-day weekends for federal holidays and moved Washington’s Birthday to the third Monday in February.
Congressional Celebration of Washington’s Birthday
The first Congressional recognition of Washington’s Birthday, February 22, was in 1862, when Secretary of the Senate, John W. Forney, read George Washington’s Farewell Address to the People of the United States. In celebration of the centennial year of the Constitution’s ratification in 1888, the Senate’s presiding officer again read the Address on February 22.
The annual tradition of the Senate observing Washington’s Birthday began in 1896 and has continued every year since. A senator, chosen by the governing body and from alternate parties each year, reads the 7,641-word statement while the Congress is in session. At the conclusion of each reading, the senator inscribes his or her name in a black, leather-bound book maintained by the Secretary of the Senate.