Some of you may remember watching generic cartoons about the "first thanksgiving" (which may or may not have been accurate), and thinking you knew all there was to know about Turkey Day (or, as I call it, Day-Before-Christmas-Tree Day). But do you really? While there is plenty of mystery surrounding the origins of Thanksgiving, one of the most pressing questions for a lot of people - or at least the only question many people bother asking - why is Thanksgiving always on a Thursday? Well, kids, buckle up, because I did the research and learned the answer so that you wouldn't have to.
A Brief History of Thanksgiving Days
Notice that doesn't say "a brief history of Thanksgiving.” That's because we're not here to talk about successful harvests. We're here to talk about days of the week, which ends up being just as interesting anyway.
As far as we're able to ascertain, days of thanks have been being celebrated by our country’s inhabitants since the 16th century, put on initially by Spaniards and Frenchmen. The first (roughly) dated English Thanksgiving occurred in Jamestown, Virginia in 1610, though we don't know the exact date. Following that, there were some English settlers in 1619 that put on a celebration of a similar kind. Then, of course, there's the one y'all know about: the Plymouth Plantation Thanksgiving, celebrated with Squanto (a member of the Patuxet tribe) in 1621. While we know that these events happened, we don't really have any exact dates. So, we're going to skip ahead 150 years.
Early American Thanksgivings
Remember the Revolutionary War? Me neither (if you do - hey Washington! Glad you're still alive and kicking).
Way back then, the Continental Congress scheduled a whole bunch of Thanksgiving Days over the course of a few years, and, get this, the first one was on a Thursday. It was also in December (December 18th, 1777 to be precise), but we'll let that slide.
Following the war, the Continental-Confederation Congress (yeah, apparently that was also a thing) continued to have several Thanksgiving days issued regularly. In 1789 another Thanksgiving was scheduled on Thursday the 28th of November.
A handful of years later, George Washington issued a proclamation, creating the first national Thanksgiving Day, on (you guessed it!) Thursday, the 26th of November.
These last two dates are where we really start to see a trend. But we aren't quite set in our ways yet, as Washington also had one held on Thursday, February 19th, 1795.
It wasn't until the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln decided that a national Thanksgiving Day would be held on the final Thursday in November in 1863, that we see the rough form of what we now celebrate.
Since then, we have had a Thanksgiving Day every year.
Set in Stone
For 70 years Thanksgiving continued in this manner, always on the final Thursday of the month, until 1939, when November had 5 Thursdays instead of 4. This was when the current President, Franklin D Roosevelt, moved it to the fourth Thursday of the month.
Several years later (after a little flip flopping on the matter), it was fixed by Congress (and later the House and the President) that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, from there on out.
To be honest, we don't technically know why Thanksgiving was initially placed on a Thursday. But we do know that for nearly 250 years, that's when we've been celebrating it. So the random day of gratitude became an annual tradition, and is now a national holiday, celebrated across the country, and even beyond its borders.
There you have it! A tasty nugget of history to share at your family's Thanksgiving dinner this year.
No matter how Thanksgiving came to be on the day that it is, all I know is that I'm grateful for the chance to hang out with family and gorge myself on turkey, stuffing, and pie. Happy Thanksgiving y'all!
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