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Tag: why is thanksgiving the last thursday of november

Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt host Thanksgiving dinner at Warm Springs, GA, November 23, 1939. (Roosevelt Library)

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt host Thanksgiving dinner at Warm Springs, GA, November 23, 1939. (Roosevelt Library)

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving, as usual, on the fourth Thursday of November. Today shoppers are hitting the stores for “Black Friday” super discounts to kick off holiday shopping.

But until 1939, Thanksgiving Day was traditionally the last Thursday in November. That year there were five Thursdays in the month, and concern about a shortened shopping season prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to break tradition and move the holiday a week back.  His action pleased retailers but rattled calendar makers. Read all about it in:

Prologue Magazine – “Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment”

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Thanksgiving, as American as apple pie

Here, in short, are the documents that made Thanksgiving.

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.

lincoln-thanksgiving-proclamation-1-l

Page one of Lincoln's Thanksgiving Procalamation which set the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November (ARC 299960)

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday. FDR would sign this into law on December 26, just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy which was still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a … [ Read all ]