Why Does Thanksgiving Always Occur on a Thursday?

When you hear the words turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and football, what comes to mind? Are you suddenly feeling hungry? You are most likely thinking about the wonderful holiday known as Thanksgiving.

Do you know the exact date of Thanksgiving this year? Is it on the 24th? Perhaps the 26th? Could it be the 23rd or the 25th? You may not know the precise date of Thanksgiving, but you probably know that it always falls on a Thursday. However, have you ever wondered why? Most other holidays are celebrated on specific dates, regardless of the day of the week. So, has Thanksgiving always been on a Thursday?

We do not know if the first Thanksgiving meal that the Puritans had with the Womponoag Indians back in 1621 occurred on a Thursday. In fact, it was not a single meal on one day; it was a three-day celebration. Furthermore, it likely took place in mid-October, not late November.

The first celebration was not repeated the following year or every year thereafter on the same day. However, days designated for giving thanks were a tradition in many parts of England and were continued by Englishmen who migrated to North America. The dates of these celebrations were often determined by church leaders, who frequently chose Thursdays because it did not interfere with church services.

In 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789, as the first nationwide “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” In the subsequent years, the holiday often changed dates and sometimes even months.

In the mid-19th century, author Sarah Josepha Buell Hale advocated for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. In 1863, her wish came true when President Abraham Lincoln announced that all states, both North and South, should celebrate Thanksgiving. He set the holiday on the last Thursday in November.

The last Thursday of November remained the standard for almost eight decades. However, in the 1930s, retailers began to complain when Novembers with five Thursdays occurred. They believed that this did not leave enough time for shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed with their concerns and thought that moving the holiday would be better for the economy. However, many people did not want the holiday to change. Between 1939 and 1941, different states celebrated Thanksgiving on different dates. Finally, on December 26, 1941, Congress passed a bill that established Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November. President Roosevelt signed that bill into law.

That is why we still celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November today. Did this change really benefit retailers? Well, the day after Thanksgiving has become known as Black Friday, which is considered the busiest shopping day of the year.

Regardless of the date that Thanksgiving Thursday falls on, it is a wonderful time to express gratitude. So, pass around the turkey and mashed potatoes! But do not forget to think about what you are most thankful for in life.

Give It a Try

Celebrate Thanksgiving with your friends and family by participating in the following enjoyable activities together:

Things to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

  • There are many things to be grateful for on Thanksgiving, such as having time off from school or work. Take a moment to reflect in a peaceful setting with a notebook and pencil, and write down all the things you appreciate. Share your list with a friend or family member and find out what they are thankful for.
  • If you’re curious about the history of Thanksgiving, particularly the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621, you can go online and watch History.com’s Bet You Didn’t Know: Thanksgiving video. It’s a fun way to learn more interesting facts about this holiday.
  • Think about how good it feels when someone thanks you for something you’ve done. We all like to be appreciated for our efforts. Take a moment to consider what others have done for you this week that you haven’t expressed gratitude for. Have you thanked your teachers for their hard work? What about your parents for providing for you? Did a friend do something nice for you? Take the time to show your appreciation and make someone’s day by acknowledging their kindness.

Additional Sources

  • http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/11/21/165655925/how-did-thanksgiving-end-up-on-thursday (accessed 13 Nov. 2019)
  • http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/11/why_is_thanksgiving_always_on.html (accessed 13 Nov. 2019)
  • http://www.almanac.com/fact/why-is-thanksgiving-always-on-a-thursdayr (accessed 13 Nov. 2019)

FAQ

1. Why is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday?

Thanksgiving is always celebrated on a Thursday because it has historical roots in the United States. The tradition dates back to 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. At that time, he proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be observed on the last Thursday in November. This decision was made to create a long weekend for people to travel and spend time with their families. However, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up one week to boost retail sales during the Great Depression. This caused confusion and controversy, so in 1941, Congress officially set the date as the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains today.

2. Is there a specific reason why Thanksgiving is on a Thursday and not another day of the week?

Yes, there is a specific reason why Thanksgiving is on a Thursday. The choice of Thursday as the designated day for Thanksgiving can be traced back to historical traditions and practical reasons. In the early days of the United States, Thursday was considered a convenient day for Thanksgiving because it allowed people to travel and celebrate without interfering with Sunday church services. Additionally, declaring a national holiday on Thursday provided a long weekend, allowing families to come together and enjoy a full day of feasting and festivities on Thursday, followed by a day of rest on Friday.

3. Has Thanksgiving always been celebrated on a Thursday?

No, Thanksgiving has not always been celebrated on a Thursday. The date of Thanksgiving has changed throughout history. The tradition began in the early 17th century when the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated a harvest feast together. However, it wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday and set the date as the last Thursday in November. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up one week to boost retail sales during the Great Depression. This caused confusion and controversy, so in 1941, Congress officially set the date as the fourth Thursday in November, where it has remained ever since.

4. Are there any other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday?

No, Thanksgiving is predominantly an American holiday and is not widely celebrated on a Thursday in other countries. While some countries have similar harvest festivals or days of thanks, they do not necessarily fall on a Thursday. For example, Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, and the date varies for other countries such as Grenada, Liberia, and Norfolk Island. Each country has its own unique traditions and customs associated with giving thanks, but the specific day of the week may differ.

5. Is there any significance to the day of the week that Thanksgiving falls on?

The day of the week that Thanksgiving falls on does not hold any specific significance other than historical tradition and practical considerations. Thursday was chosen as the day for Thanksgiving in the United States because it allowed for a long weekend and did not interfere with Sunday church services. It provided a convenient opportunity for families to gather, celebrate, and give thanks together. While some may find symbolism in the idea of celebrating gratitude and abundance at the end of the workweek, the choice of Thursday was primarily based on practicality and historical precedent.

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