According to most sources, the first thanksgiving took place sometime in November of 1621 between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth.
In 1789 George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a holiday on the 4th Thursday of November. In 1863 it became a national holiday when Abraham Lincoln made a presidential proclamation during the Civil War. He set it to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. From that point forward, each year a president would proclaim a date to be the national holiday and therefore it had a tendency to change each year. (according to NPR.org and wikipedia) This began to change when in 1933 there was a November that had 5 Thursday’s in it. (Hmm.. just like THIS November.) So when traditionally, up to this point, Thanksgiving fell on the last November, (usually by presidential proclamation) which usually IS the 4th November of the month, there would actually be one more Thursday in November.
This particular November in 1933 two Thanksgivings ended up being observed when retailers had asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up a week instead of having it as the last Thursday of the month.
A snippet of a letter from the Downtown Association of Los Angeles reads:
“You will appreciate the importance that an additional week incorporated in this great holiday season will have upon the distribution of activities of the entire United States and the added impetus that will be given thereby to the efforts of the administration and the N.R.A. to increase employment and purchasing power.”
Roosevelt denied this request and as tradition had been in the past, Americans ate their Turkey on the last Thursday of the month. While he was still president, another 5 Thursday November rolled around again in 1939. Again retailers wanted it to be a week early to give people an extra week to do Christmas shopping. This time Roosevelt gave in. This actually caused a bit of an issue as many people felt this was just so those businesses could make more money. Some state Governors decided to have Thanksgiving on the last Thursday anyway. So for several years different states would celebrate Thanksgiving on different Thursdays. Then on Dec 26th, 1942, Congress passed a law that officially made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
So go eat some Turkey.
[Article by Drew The Geek]