An acquaintance of mine has a friend that did a bit of research on the Holiday. I thought it appropriate to pass the following along…
On September 28, 1789, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a ‘Day of Public Thanksgiving’ and for the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the our then new Constitution. Presidents subsequently have issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, however the dates and even months of the celebrations would sometimes vary. It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.
However in 1939 the last Thursday fell on the last day of November. Concerned that a short Christmas shopping season might harm the countries economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation which moved the celebration of Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. 32 states issued similar proclamations, but 16 other states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November.
For two years Thanksgiving was celebrated on two separate days with part of the nation celebrating it on the second to last Thursday in November, and the rest of the country celebrating it a week later. Congress, to end the confusion, decided to set a new fixed-date for the day of Thanksgiving and on October 6th of 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November would be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, yet again, trying to take into account those years when November has five Thursdays amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday. The House agreed to the amendment, and it was signed on December 26, 1941.
The forth Thursday in November remains as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.