The third Monday in February is considered a Federal Holiday in order to celebrate Presidents’ Day. This holiday can be spelled in a number of different ways from “President’s Day” to “Presidents Day” or the correct form of “Presidents’ Day”.
Why is there variation in the spelling of Presidents’ Day? Presidents’ Day is not actually the name of the official Federal holiday. It is actually Washington’s Birthday but most call it President’s Day or Presidents Day, which can lead to confusion. The good news is all the different versions of spelling Presidents’ Day are considered correct by all dictionaries.
Webster’s Third International Dictionary and many others have spelled the holiday as President’s Day. This is because it was the common way to spell it for many years but in the recent past, the apostrophe has been moved and now it is behind the “s” and not in front of it. The problem with the apostrophe before the s is because it is celebrating a single president when the holiday is meant to celebrate many presidents. This is not a day to celebrate just George Washington even though it was originally created in his honor. The holiday now celebrates the lives of the presidents that have run this great country and you often hear of Thomas Jefferson, JFK, LBJ, and many others when you hear the term “Presidents’ Day.”
The use of spelling Presidents Day without an apostrophe has increased as the Associated Press began using it. This is because it uses an attributive noun and the holiday is meant for all presidents as well. With the apostrophe after the s it shows that its meant to celebrate the presidents as well but the day belongs to them.
If you intend to celebrate more than one president than you cannot place the apostrophe before the s because this limits you to one president. To honor multiple presidents you will need to move the apostrophe. Using President’s Day as the apostrophe before the “s” is noticed by some but most calendars and other things now drop the apostrophe or move it after the “s” in order to celebrate multiple presidents.
How long has Presidents’ Day been around? It was officially created in 1880 by Congress and titled Washington’s Birthday. This was a federal holiday in which citizens would celebrate George Washington as the founder of the United States of America. It was first celebrated on February 22 as this was his actual birthday but the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moves it to the third Monday in February.
Changing to Presidents’ Day from Washington’s birthday has taken quite a few years to do. The initial change was proposed back in 1951 when Harold Stonebridge Fischer formed a committee to honor all presidents not just one. His goal was to have the office of the Presidency be honored instead of just honoring one individual that made a great impact on our country.
With this change came about a different date as many felt that March 4 should be the holiday as this was the inauguration day. However the committee did not like this idea and since Lincoln’s Birthday was also close to Washington’s birthday it would create too much confusion and be overwhelming.
The mid-1980s is where the apostrophe started to come into question and there was a large push to drop the apostrophe or to move it after the s. Some proposed that the holiday be changed to “Washington and Lincoln Day” while others liked the spelling of “Presidents’ Day”. The actual spelling of Presidents’ Day may depend on the state you live in as some states include the apostrophe while others do not.