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Today Is the Most Confusing Holiday of the Year

And not just because of the roving apostrophe
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2019 11:44 AM CST
This May 2, 1933, photo, shows the carved face of President George Washington in the early stages of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills near Keystone, S.D.   (AP Photo/File)

(Newser) – True or false: The reason you're not getting mail on Monday is because it's a federal holiday called Presidents Day, President's Day, or Presidents' Day. Technically, false. As CNN explains, the federal holiday is called Washington's Birthday. Except that Washington's Birthday never, in fact, falls on George Washington's birthday. Which is Feb. 22. Unless it's Feb. 11, which is what it was under the Julian calendar still in use in North America while he was alive. But then we switched to the Gregorian calendar, which shifted his birthday 11 days later. Either way, Washington's Birthday must legally fall between Feb. 15 and Feb. 21, meaning it can never hit either birthday. Confused yet? We haven't even gotten to the apostrophe and that whole can of worms.

"Presidents Day has been an extremely confusing holiday ever since George Washington died in 1799 and people decided we ought to figure out a way to celebrate the guy," writes Jeva Lange at the Week. Centuries later, it's a big mess. States and merchants have different ideas about what we're actually celebrating. Some move that apostrophe around or remove it entirely to celebrate Washington alone (President's Day), Washington and a few other presidents such as Lincoln and Jefferson (Presidents' Day), the very concept of presidents (Presidents Day), or all presidents who have served (Presidents' Day). "Alas, we can only be sure of one thing, which is that it is definitely not President's' Day," writes Lange. "Although frankly, at this point, maybe it should be." (Read more Presidents Day stories.)

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