How Did Thanksgiving End Up On Thursday?

Nov 21, 2012
Originally published on November 21, 2012 3:30 pm

Move Thanksgiving to Friday? That's what F.B. Haviland asked President Hoover in 1929.

Didn't happen. But while we're on the subject, ever wonder why we carve our gobblers on the fourth Thursday of November? Hint: It's not because Thanksgiving Thursday is more alliterative than Thanksgiving Friday.

In 1789, President Washington declared Thurs., Nov. 26, as a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin," according to the National Archives. But in the years following, the date for the holiday was announced by presidential proclamation and celebrated on various days and months. When President Lincoln made his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, the last Thursday of November became standard.

Then came the big date dispute of 1939 when two Thanksgiving holidays were observed.

You see, according to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a five-Thursday November fell in 1933 and some retailers asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up a week.

The president denied the request and Americans ate their turkey on the last Thursday as always in 1933.

But, Roosevelt was president for a long time, long enough for another five Thursday November to roll around in 1939. Once again, some business leaders asked if the date for the holiday could be a week earlier to give people more time to shop for Christmas, and this time Roosevelt agreed to do it. This raised a hue and cry as many people felt that he was catering to large retailers so they could make more money.

A few governors decided their states would have Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month as usual and that's how some people ended up celebrating it a week earlier or later than others. For two years.

President Roosevelt stuck with the second-to-last Thursday schedule, some states stuck with the last Thursday of the month schedule and finally on Dec. 26, 1941, Congress passed a law making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.

Now you have a story to tell over Thanksgiving dinner. You're welcome.

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