Thanksgiving Day is one of the most popular national holidays in the United States, and its celebration is indeed quite extensive! But while you are wondering what to do and how you would observe such a festivity, it might come to you as a surprise that Thanksgiving will occur a bit later than usual this year. Yes, it is! Thanksgiving is on November 26, 2020.
As it turns out, Thanksgiving is so late this year that it has become utterly historic and poses a significance. Most noteworthy, the account of the contemporary Thanksgiving dates back to 1939 when then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt determined to do away with the tradition and shake it up for Capitalism.
In fact, celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November had started all the way back the time of Abraham Lincoln. However, according to TIME Magazine, the calendar had become odd in 1939, as the month of November during that year began on a Wednesday. Hence, there was a total of five Thursdays as opposed to having only four.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) November 20, 2017
In order to clear things up and put everything into place, Roosevelt decided to move the national holiday to the second-to-last Thursday of the month. As a result, many have raised brows and were unhappy with the decision. But Roosevelt was left unfazed by the people’s reaction. Instead, he justified his statement with a “pro-shopping” response. He said that his decision was based on how merchants would have more time to shop since Christmas Day is just almost a month away. As a result, this gave birth to “Black Friday,” which has become a consumer craze that started almost 80 years ago.
The year 1940 came, and the change to the second-to-last Thursday of the month (November 21) took effect and became the official Thanksgiving Day. The following year, however, Roosevelt reportedly confessed that the shift in the date was a mistake. But the calendars were already published with the third Thursday as Thanksgiving Day, so it was already too late to switch it back.
As 1941 came to an end, Roosevelt decided to make the final change. He then signed a bill making the fourth Thursday of November the official Thanksgiving Day. This is regardless of if it is the last Thursday or not.
Thanksgiving Day & How It Started
Before the basting and roasting of the turkey and preparing your sweet hot pies, Thanksgiving was all about lobsters, seals, and swans on the menu. But how did this festivity begin, and what was that to be grateful for?
The first Thanksgiving dates all the way back to 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians took part in an autumn harvest feast together. This started as the first of the celebrations that paved the way to its continuing celebration until today. In addition, for almost two centuries, days of observing Thanksgiving depended on every colony and state. However, things began to change in 1863, during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed that national Thanksgiving Day be observed every November of the year.
The First Celebration: Plymouth Thanksgiving
Carrying over a hundred passengers, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, in September 1620. An assortment of “religious separatists” was onboard, attempting to find a new home where they could openly and freely practice their faith and belief. Also with them are individuals they have lured, promising prosperity and land ownership as they head to the New World.
After the perfidious and unbearable journey that went on for 66 days, the ship anchored on the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their actual and intended landing place, which is at the mouth of the Hudson River. One month passed, and they successfully passed by Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are commonly called and known, started establishing a village at Plymouth.
Throughout the journey, the life of those on board the ship was rather perilous. The first vicious winter broke, and most of the colonists endured the biting chills. In addition, they were exposed to outbreaks of contagious diseases that resulted in a number of deaths. The first spring rose, and only half of these passengers lived to experience it in the place where they once called New England. Then the month of March came, and the colonists decided to move ashore. They were gratefully received by an Abenaki Indian who greeted the group in English.
After a few days, the Abenaki Indian returned and brought with him another Native American named Squanto, who later taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate the land where now they call home. Also, Squanto taught them to plant corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish, and stay away from poisonous plants. Moreover, he aided the settlers to forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe.
November of 1621 came, and the Pilgrims had their first successful corn harvest. Governor William Bradford arranged a celebratory feast and requested a group of Native Americans and the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. The festival lasted for three days. Although the Pilgrims themselves did not call it “thanksgiving,” it is totally believed as the “first Thanksgiving” in its history. While there is no exact record of what the first Thanksgiving menu was, much of what we know about the celebration comes from an account of one Pilgrim whose name was Edward Winslow. He chronicled that during the feast, they gathered and partook on fruits, served fowls, and even killed five deer. And his final words in the his account says,
“And although it is not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”