Why is Thanksgiving not the last Thursday in November?

I was having this discussion with someone the other day, because it hit both of us that we always thought it was the last Thursday. It is always the FOURTH Thursday, not necessarily the last. Often times the fourth Thursday IS the last, so many times it doesn’t come up as an issue or question.

According to the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Library, in 1939, there were two Thanksgivings.

At the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. However, Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November because that was the day President Abraham Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Franklin Roosevelt continued that tradition, but he soon found that tradition was difficult to keep in extreme circumstances such as the Great Depression. His first Thanksgiving in office, 1933, fell on November 30th, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. Since statistics showed that most people did not do their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, business leaders feared they would lose money, especially during the Depression, because there were only 24 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So in 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed it to be a week earlier. This was rather controversial, and some states defied the President’s Proclamation, and celebrated on the 30th, meaning that many areas celebrated Thanksgiving on different days! The move stayed in place for two more years, but caused such problems that finally, Congress passed a law on December 26, 1941, stating Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year.


I hope you enjoyed a little Thanksgiving History today! Happy Thanksgiving!