Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by C from GA. C Wonders, “Why is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, C!
What do you think of when you hear the following words: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and football? In addition to being hungry suddenly, you're probably thinking about the WONDERful holiday of Thanksgiving.
Do you know the date of Thanksgiving this year? Is it on the 24th? Maybe the 26th? Could it be the 23rd or the 25th? Even if you don't know the exact date of Thanksgiving, you probably do know what day it'll fall on: Thursday. But why is that? Independence Day is always on July 4, not a particular day of the week. Likewise, Christmas is always on December 25, whatever day of the week that happens to be. So has Thanksgiving always been on a Thursday?
That first Thanksgiving meal that the Puritans had with the Native Americans way back in 1621? We don't know if that was on a Thursday or not. In fact, it wasn't even a single meal on one day, but a three-day celebration that likely took place in mid-October rather than late November.
That first celebration, to offer thanks for a first successful harvest in the new world, wasn't repeated the next year and every year thereafter on the same day. However, days set aside for giving thanks were a tradition in many parts of England and therefore were continued in the new world with various dates often set by church leaders.
In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday, November 26, 1789, as the first nationwide "Day of Publick Thanksgivin." In the years that followed, however, the holiday often changed days of the week and even months of the year.
In the mid-19th century, author Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (best known for writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb") began a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the final Thursday of November should be set aside by all states — both North and South — as a day of Thanksgiving.
By the time Lincoln made his proclamation, celebration of Thanksgiving on a Thursday had become a tradition in many areas, especially New England. Historians do not know for sure why Thursday became the tradition, but some believe it might have had something to do with Puritan church leaders choosing a day that didn't interfere with the Sabbath.
The last Thursday of November was the standard for nearly eight decades. In the 1930s, though, retailers began to complain when Novembers with five Thursdays rolled around. They claimed that celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November in these months didn't leave enough time for shopping in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
President Franklin Roosevelt was sympathetic to the retailers, but some people did not want the holiday to change. There were a couple of times during the 1930s when different states celebrated Thanksgiving on different weeks.
Finally, on December 26, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress that officially changed Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November. And, thanks to Congress, that's why we still celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November today. Did it really help retailers? Since the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as Black Friday and is considered the biggest shopping day of the year, it seems like the retailers may have been right!