Why 4th Thursday of November is observed as Thanksgiving Day
Washington, Nov 22: Today, the fourth Thursday of November 2018, is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. Why is this moment observed on the fourth Thursday of the year's penultimate day?
In 1789, the first president of the United States, George Washington had declared November 26 as the "Day of Publick Thanksgivin," as per the National Archives, which preserves historical records. However, in the years that followed, the holiday was announced by means of presidential proclamation and celebrated on various days and months. It was only after president Abraham Lincoln made his proclamation in 1863 that the Thanksgiving Day came to have a fixed day and it was the last Thursday of the month of November.
In 1939, however, a dispute had surfaced over celebration of the occasion. As per Franklin D Roosevelt Library and Museum, the November in 1933 had five Thursdays and some traders had asked the then president FDR to bring the Thanksgiving Day ahead by a week. The president, however, denied to do so and the Thanksgiving was observed as usual on the last Thursday.
Six years later, in 1939, when FDR (he died in his fourth term as the president) was still the chief executive, the November again had five Thursdays and again some business leaders asked him if the day of the Thanksgiving could be moved ahead by a week so that people could get more time for shopping for Christmas. This time the president gave in to their demand and it led to a huge cry as many criticised him for surrendering before the retailers' business interests. According to others, the president did so to allow the traders to engage in more business activities ahead of the Christmas so that their financial fortunes returned, especially in the wake of the Great Depression. The Republicans were not happy and there were two Thanksgiving Days - one of the Republicans and other of the Democrats.
In 1940 and 1941, November had four Thursdays, and president Roosevelt declared the third as the day of Thanksgiving. Some states went ahead with the change while others did not.
In October 1941, both Houses of the Congress passed a resolution fixing the last Thursday as that of the Thanksgiving starting from 1942. However, in December that year, the Senate passed an amendment to the same resolution and said Thanksgiving be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of the month of November. It passed the law and got presidential assent and the tradition is being observed ever since.
Earlier in 1929, FB Haviland had written to the then president Herbert Hoover to move the Thanksgiving Day from Thursday to Friday so that it would enable people to have an extended holiday including Saturday and Sunday. However, it was not met.