Why is Thanksgiving always on the Fourth Thursday of November?



Christopher Oliver, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving is approaching, daylight savings just ended, and fall is now in full swing. With only a few weeks left until our first real vacation, there is a lot of great history to appreciate about Thanksgiving. I’m sure everyone knows the story of the First Thanksgiving back in 1621 (Which is ironic, as the holiday has been around for 400 years), but when was this holiday first acknowledged as an American holiday?


New England (Parts of America that the English settled in) celebrated Thanksgiving as an annual celebration in the 17th century. After the Patriot victory in Saratoga, (A major turning point in the Revolutionary War) the Continental Congress declared the FIRST American Thanksgiving (NOT New England) in 1777. This is the first Thanksgiving in American history and is the holiday that we in the United States take a vacation on to celebrate. It separated itself from the New England holiday by having its date set in November instead of mid-October when the New England Thanksgiving was originally celebrated. A few years later in 1789, George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving holiday, making him the first president to do so. As such, he requested that the holiday would have a set date of November 26, a Thursday, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

So if this is the case, how come we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving every 26th of November? This year in 2021, Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, November 25th. This already proves that SOMETHING happened to the date Thanksgiving is celebrated, so what happened?


Well, Threescore and 14 years later in 1863, Mr. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to no longer be celebrated on the 26th, but rather it is celebrated on the LAST Thursday of November. Thus the modern date of Thanksgiving was set: On the last Thursday of November.

But wait, there’s more! A while after Lincoln made his declaration, Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the holidays’ celebration date again, this time to November 23rd, which was unnecessary since it would fall on the last Thursday of November occasionally. The decision was received with extreme controversy from the public, and some people even refused the new declaration, deciding to still celebrate the holiday on the last Thursday of November. For only two years, this new proclamation was issued, until November 26th of 1941, where Roosevelt signed a bill in law, which made the last Thursday of November officially the set date of Thanksgiving.

While the original Thanksgiving was to celebrate a good harvest and blessings, Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for anything you appreciate. There are plenty of other American holidays with “Unique” situations, as they might not have a specific date set for them just like Thanksgiving. For example, Martin Luther King Junior Day is always on a Monday in January. 2022 will have the holiday celebrated on the 17th of January (A Monday), meanwhile, 2021 celebrated the day on the 18th of January. It’s a bit unique for a holiday to not have a set date, but that can coincide with what the holiday is about. Thanksgiving’s first celebration in the United States was on a Thursday, which is the reason we always celebrate it on that specific Thursday. Everyone has something to be grateful for, even if you take it for granted, so have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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