Hah! It’s none of them. The federal holiday, no matter what the car dealers and retailers call it, is Washington’s Birthday. The “Uniform Monday Holiday Act“, voted on January 15, 1968 and signed in June 1968, moved the day to the third Monday in February effective January 1, 1971. But the bill didn’t change the name, to honor both Lincoln and Washington, even though it was proposed. The proposed Monday date would fall between the birthdays of both; Washington’s the 22nd and Lincoln’s the 12th. It was even discussed to change the name as a day to honor the Office of the President. The public law passed in the Second Session of The Ninetieth Congress of the United States of America, leaving the name of the holiday unchanged.
In fact Lincoln’s Birthday has never been a federal holiday.
In a push from retailers in the mid-1980s, the day has become popularly known as President’s Day, or Presidents’ Day, or Presidents Day, and everybody has a sale. It started with automobile dealers and now it seems everyone has a sale on that day, from mattresses to shoes.
The correct spelling, however, seems to favor not using the apostrophe. The “Associated Press Stylebook” has the holiday correct as “Presidents Day”. It seems right to me to put the apostrophe before the last “s” but that is an incorrect way to spell it if you are intending to honor more than one individual President, but would be correct if you’re talking about Presidents in general. WTF. Why does it always have to be so complicated?
In Alabama, they celebrate it as “Washington and Jefferson Day”, even though Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is in April. Alabama. Hmmm? Let’s not go there. In New Mexico, “Presidents Day”, as a state paid holiday is the Friday following Thanksgiving. Let’s not go there either.
All I know is the date falls on Monday, February 14th, this year, and I’ve got the day off. I don’t sell cars and I don’t sell mattresses.