Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November. The date changes, but the day of the week never does.
But that wasn’t always the case.
According to the National Archives, the notion of creating a Thanksgiving holiday began on Sept. 28, 1789, when the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking President George Washington to recommend a national day of thanksgiving.
A few days later, Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, as a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving.”
Future presidents issued various proclamations naming days for Thanksgiving, but the dates were different. Some weren’t even in November.
It was President Abraham Lincoln who tried to nail down a day. His 1863 proclamation said Thanksgiving would be observed every year on the last Thursday of November, and that was the day for decades until President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1939, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month, and that created a problem. Worried that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen an economic recovery, Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the second to the last Thursday of November to allow for more holiday shopping time. It didn’t go over very well. Some states moved and others didn’t — 32 to 16.
“For two years, two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving — the President and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week,” according to the National Archives.
Congress took action in 1941, and the House passed a resolution declaring the last Thursday as the “legal” Thanksgiving Day. The Senate later amended the resolution and established the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would cover those years that November has five Thursdays.
Roosevelt signed the resolution on Dec. 26, 1941, and the rest is history.