President's Day is much more than a "retail holiday", as all the television and newspaper ads we see may suggest. It's more than a day off of school, too, and of course it's not just a banking holiday. President's Days is a national holiday initially introduced to celebrate the birthdays of two of our most revered presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Following Washington's death in 1799, the day was unofficially observed in Washington D.C. only. In 1879 the holiday was signed into law as one of four national holidays. It wasn't until the 1960's when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that the holiday was combined with Lincoln's birthday, which had been observed separately in some states. Washington’s Birthday was then shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the three-day weekend with sales, and “Presidents’ Day” bargains were advertised at stores around the country.
While Washington and Lincoln still remain two of the most recognized leaders, Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives.