Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday?
Before you start blaming the Pilgrims for sticking us with a national holiday on a Thursday, I should let you know that the Pilgrims had very little, if anything, to do with the United States celebrating Thanksgiving on a Thursday each and every year.
First off, we're not even really sure which day of the week the very first Thanksgiving Day was commemorated way back in 1621. We're do know that the first Thanksgiving took place in mid-October of that year, not in November.
The Menu On The First Thanksgiving Was Probably A Bit Different Than The One You'll Enjoy
We also know that the Pilgrims and the locals that they invited to the table didn't eat all the things that we've traditionally enjoyed, like roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. According to History.com, they enjoyed:
- Maybe turkey (no one is really sure), but definitely venison
- Maybe some corn, but also onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and perhaps peas
- Blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries and cranberries
- Lobster, bass, clams and oysters
- Pumpkins, but not pumpkin pie
According to some accounts, early English settlers in North America improvised by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices to make a custard, then roasting the gourds whole in hot ashes.
Enough About The Past And Present Thanksgiving Day Menus, What About Why We Do It All On A Thursday
Breaking it all down, it seems that the Pilgrims liked the idea of a Thursday celebration because of the distance of the event to Sabbath Day. Moving ahead a hundred or so years, George Washington himself "proclaimed Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” in honor of the new U.S. Constitution," according to Almanac.com.
Then, 74 years later in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, in an attempt to unify the country, declared our country's National Day of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November.
Finally, 76 years after that, in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt changed it to the "second to last Thursday in November."
It took until 1941 for the 4th Thursday of November to be officially declared a federal holiday, which also meant that the date of Thanksgiving in the United States couldn't be changed.
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Gallery Credit: Annalise Mantz & Madison Troyer