While you're basting your roasted turkey, prepping your pies, and getting your Thanksgiving menu together, it might occur to you that Thanksgiving is a little later than usual this year. And you'd be right! After all, "What day is Thanksgiving?" and "When is Thanksgiving?" are always questions that holiday enthusiasts Google. Well, this year, the month of November begins on a Sunday, which means the fourth Thursday of the month falls on Nov. 26. So Thanksgiving is on November 26, 2020. As it turns out, there's a reason why Thanksgiving is so late this year—and it's downright historic. In fact, the story dates all the way back to 1939 when Franklin Roosevelt decided to shake up the tradition a bit in the name of capitalism.
Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday of the month since the time of Abraham Lincoln. But according to TIME, during 1939, the calendar had been unusual, as the month started on a Wednesday, so there were five Thursdays as opposed to four.
To restore some order, Roosevelt moved the national holiday to the second-to-last Thursday of the month (a change that many were unhappy with). Instead of focusing on the negative, Roosevelt attempted to justify his decision with a pro-shopping response: merchants would now have a holiday further from Christmas to allow for more shopping time. In a way, this birthed the consumer craze known as Black Friday nearly 80 years ago.
The following year (1940), the change stuck as the second-to-last Thursday (Nov. 21) was declared the official Thanksgiving Day. In 1941, he reportedly admitted that the switch was a mistake, but because the calendars were already printed with the third Thursday as Thanksgiving Day, it was too late to go back.
As 1941 ended, Roosevelt made the final permanent change, as he signed a bill making Thanksgiving Day fall on the fourth Thursday of November, regardless of if it is the last Thursday of the month or not.
So, regardless of if Turkey Day snuck up on you or if you're been counting down the days till you get a taste of your grandma's famous Thanksgiving dessert recipe again, at least now you have a tidbit of trivia to bust out at your holiday party. Cheers to chowing down on stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes with a little more wisdom!
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