Thanksgiving: One Day’s Journey to Becoming a Federal Holiday

(This post originally appeared on our blog November 23, 2011)
 
 We know that the tradition of Thanksgiving has been celebrated since colonial days. But do you know how it became a Federal Holiday?
 
The first post-nationhood  proclamation on record was made by George Washington on October 3, 1789. This marked the first time that Thanksgiving was officially recognized by the U.S. Government.
   
After that, Thanksgiving was proclaimed by presidents sporadically until Abraham Lincoln took office; since then it has been an annual affair. Lincoln proclaimed it in 1861, and after that the holiday was observed annually on the final Thursday in November.
 
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt, proclaimed Thanksgiving a week earlier, in an effort to kick start the holiday shopping season and give the country, which was in the midst of the Great Depression, an economic a boost.

Some states disagreed with this decision and decided to stick with celebrating Thanksgiving on the final Thursday, Nov. 30; while others observed the Nov. 23 celebration, which became  known colloquially as “Franksgiving.” 

To end any confusion caused by Thanksgiving presidential proclaimations, Congress passed a joint resolution on October 6, 1941, that Thanksgiving would be observed on the fourth Thursday of November. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on December 25, 1941, thereby making Thanksgiving a matter of federal law.

You can learn more about Thanksgiving Day’s political journey from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and the Library of Congress Thanksgiving Timeline.

 

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