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!

Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberries. Pumpkin pie. Football. What do you think of when you hear these words? Are you suddenly hungry? You’re probably also 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? You may not know the exact date of Thanksgiving. But you probably do know what day it’ll fall on: Thursday. But why is that? Most other holidays are celebrated on specific dates, whatever day of the week they fall on. So has Thanksgiving always been on a Thursday?

That first Thanksgiving meal that the Puritans had with the Womponoag Indians way back in 1621? We don’t know if that was on a Thursday. In fact, it wasn’t even a single meal on one day. It was a three-day celebration. And it likely took place in mid-October, not late November.

That first celebration 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. They were continued by Englishmen who moved to North America. The dates of these celebrations were often set by church leaders. These leaders often chose Thursdays, likely because it didn’t interfere with church services.

In 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, November 26, 1789, the first nationwide “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” In the years that followed, the holiday often changed days of the week. It even sometimes changed to different months of the year.

In the mid-19th century, author Sarah Josepha Buell Hale pushed to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1863, she got her wish. 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 was the rule for nearly eight decades. In the 1930s, though, retailers began to complain when Novembers with five Thursdays rolled around. They believed this didn’t leave enough shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed. He thought moving the holiday would be better for the economy. But 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 made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November. President Roosevelt signed that bill into law.

That’s why we still celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November today. Did it really help retailers? Well, the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as Black Friday. It is considered the biggest shopping day of the year.

Whatever date Thanksgiving Thursday falls on, it’s a great time to be grateful. So pass around the turkey and mashed potatoes! But remember to think about what you’re most thankful for in life. 

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.2, C3.D2.His.2

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