Everybody calls it “Presidents Day” but today is officially the celebration of the birth of our first president, George Washington. It is a federal and state holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February.

The holiday became popularly known as Presidents Day after it was moved from the actual date of Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, to the third Monday in February under the 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

Federal, state and local government offices are closed today. Schools are closed. Courts are closed.

The post office is closed and there are no mail deliveries. UPS and Federal Express are delivering and their offices are open.

The LIRR is operating on a holiday schedule with an extra westbound train departing Ronkonkoma at 7:10 a.m. and arriving at Penn Station at 8:31 a.m.

Most Suffolk County Transit buses, including the S92, are operating on a normal weekday schedule. The 8A bus in Riverhead is on a Saturday schedule today.

The N.Y. Stock Exchange is closed today. Most banks are closed today. Wells Fargo and TD Bank will be open.

Riverhead Free Library is open, with regular business hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

Municipal trash collection in Riverhead follows its regular schedule today.

History of the holiday

Today is the official observance of Washington’s birthday. “Presidents’ Day” is not a federal designation, but its use became common as a result of advertising campaigns that began using the term in the 1980s.

The birthday of Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) was never made a federal holiday, though it is observed by some states, including New York.

Though Washington was born on Feb. 22, the observance of Washington’s birthday as a federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which took effect in 1971.

Some proponents of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act wanted to rename Washington’s Birthday as “Presidents Day,” to celebrate the birth of both Washington and Lincoln, but the bill passed by the 90th Congress in 1968 kept the name Washington’s Birthday for the holiday we celebrate today, the third Monday in February.

Portrait of President George Washington painted in 1796 by Gilbert Stuart, on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

Washington’s life

Washington was born in Colonial Virginia on Feb. 22, 1732 (Feb. 11, 1731 under the old style calendar in use until 1750 in England and its colonies) the son of a wealthy tobacco plantation owner. He became a surveyor and soldier and rose to the rank of a senior officer in the colonial army during the French and Indian War. In 1775, Washington was appointed by the Second Continental Congress to lead the Continental Army as commander-in-chief in the American Revolution, from 1775 to 1783. After the American victory, Washington presided over the writing of the Constitution in 1787 and became the first president by unanimous choice of the Electoral College in 1789.

Washington defined the office of the presidency and oversaw the establishment of a strong national government. Many of the customs he put into place as president — using a cabinet system, delivering an inaugural address — are followed to this day. His refusal to run for a third term of office was a custom followed by all his successors until Franklin Roosevelt ran and was elected to a third term in 1940.

Washington is known as the “father of our country” because of his central role in its birth, in establishing its structure of governance and in shaping the office of the chief executive.

For more information, visit “George Washington, a National Treasure

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.