Have you ever wondered why Thanksgiving Day always falls on the 4th Thursday of every year? Why was it a Thursday? Why not a Friday so we could have a three day weekend? Was it so the stores could have a Black Friday?
Okay, the last one doesn’t actually matter since stores had not coined the term Black Friday when Thanksgiving Day was officially designated the fourth Thursday of November and there wasn’t a huge number of stores as there is today but it is still an interesting question. What was so important about the fourth Thursday of November?
Historically, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1863, he decided on the last Thursday in November. No one is certain what the allure was in regards to a Thursday in November but Abraham Lincoln was not the only person to declare that a day of thanksgiving should be held on a Thursday in November.
However, he was the model for later presidents and they all followed the same tradition of having Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November. In fact, it was so thanksgiving was so closely tied with the presidency that every year, the current president would declare the date of Thanksgiving and would give a formal Thanksgiving Day address.
As time went on, America settled into the tradition of the holiday being on the final Thursday of the month and everyone celebrated this way for over a hundred years. The president would issue the date, and then he would make his formal address.
Everything seemed perfectly fine and everyone seemed happy with the way Thanksgiving was run until 1939 when President Franklin Roosevelt decided that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of the month.
Now, to give President Roosevelt credit, his decision was not taken lightly and he was first aware of the problem with the final Friday when he was first approached by business owners in 1933 about their concerns over the lack of sales generated by having such a late Thanksgiving.
The general thought was, people did not purchase for Christmas until after the Thanksgiving holiday. With the depression, less was being purchased, more businesses were struggling and business owners felt that if Thanksgiving fell on the fifth Friday, which it did in 1933, there would be significant decreases in the amount of profit that they made.
Originally, President Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would continue on as it always had, on the final Thursday of the month. However, when he was again faced with the same problem in 1939, President Roosevelt made the controversial decision to make Thanksgiving a week earlier and officially celebrate it on the fourth Thursday of November.
With that declaration, the United States was divided and many sent angry letters to the president about his decision. However, President Roosevelt stuck to his decision and on the fourth Thursday of November, he made his formal Thanksgiving Day address and carved a turkey at the annual dinner hosted at Warm Springs, Georgia.
The country did not fully celebrate it with the president. In fact, many states decided that Thanksgiving would be held the following Thursday as it had been done for over a hundred years. This caused a lot of confusion and many families were unable to celebrate the holiday together, especially if their families lived in a state that was celebrating on a different day.
Unfortunately, the problem did not go away after 1939 and the president continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. People were still outraged each year and many continued to celebrate the holiday on the final Thursday.
Finally, in December of 1941, after having the country divided for two years, Congress passed an official law that made the fourth Thursday of November the official national Thanksgiving Day holiday.