How Thanksgiving Became a Holiday in America: Why is Thanksgiving the Fourth Thursday? – FreeSchool

How Thanksgiving Became a Holiday in America: Why is Thanksgiving the Fourth Thursday? – FreeSchool


You’re watching FreeSchool! If you live in the United States, you have
probably already heard the story of the first Thanksgiving – how the Pilgrims came over
on the Mayflower and held a feast of Thanksgiving after their first good harvest in the New
World. But how did a Massachusetts harvest festival
in 1621 become a modern national holiday? In the seventeenth century days of thanksgiving
were religious holidays, days of fasting and prayer, giving thanks to God for things like
rain ending a drought or success in battle, as well as for good harvests. In 1777, Congress proclaimed a day of thanksgiving
in all 13 colonies to commemorate the victory of American forces over the British at the
Battle of Saratoga. Another day of thanksgiving was celebrated
in November of 1782 after the British House of Commons voted to end the Revolutionary
War, and George Washington later proclaimed yet another one in the first year of his presidency. John Adams and James Madison also set days
of thanksgiving, but no president after Madison would do the same for fifty years. Throughout the 1800s, several states adopted
a yearly Thanksgiving holiday. These days of thanksgiving were celebrated
on a different day in every state, and remained mostly a Northern tradition. In 1846 Sarah Josepha Hale, magazine editor
and the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” began a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national
holiday. Over the course of seventeen years she published
articles and wrote letters to governors, senators, and five consecutive presidents, urging the
creation of a national day of thanksgiving each year. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President
Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a day of Thanksgiving, hoping
that it would help heal the wounds of their divided nation. Thanksgiving became only the third National
Holiday to be observed in the United States, alongside Washington’s Birthday and Independence
Day. Thanksgiving remained on the last Thursday
in November until the 1930s. In 1933 there were five Thursdays in November,
and some business owners asked Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president at the time, to move
Thanksgiving up a week so people would have more time to shop for Christmas. He refused. The next time there were five Thursdays in
November was 1939, and Roosevelt was still president. This time when business owners asked him to
move the holiday, he agreed, and issued a presidential proclamation saying that Thanksgiving
should be the fourth Thursday of November. Some people really disliked the change since
they thought it was just intended to help people make more money. Some states’ governors even refused to change
the date of their state’s Thanksgiving celebrations until 1941, when Congress passed a law saying
that Thanksgiving should be on the fourth Thursday, bringing everyone’s celebrations
back to the same day. Today Thanksgiving is a day of rest and feasting. It is popularly celebrated with football and
parades, but most importantly, it is about family – and remembering what we have to be
thankful for. I hope you enjoyed learning about the history
of Thanksgiving today! Goodbye till next time.

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