US & World

Americans have observed Thanksgiving on many dates over the years

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Along with what’s left of yesterday’s feast, digest this: Congress designated the first national observance of Thanksgiving for this day in 1789.

The annual feast many Americans associate with the Pilgrims slowly made its way throughout the colonies. By the time those territories declared their independence from Great Britain, the Continental Congress developed the habit of proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving to God for the conduct of the Revolutionary War.

That usually fell on a Thursday in December. The first president, George Washington, mandated the first Thanksgiving designated by this nation’s government.

Successive presidents did the same, and by the time of the Civil War, Thanksgiving had become a fixture on the calendar in most states. Abraham Lincoln decreed it on the final Thursday in November, where it remained until the Great Depression.

In 1939 – a November with five Thursdays – Franklin Roosevelt moved it to the fourth Thursday of November so retailers could have an extra week in those days before media saturation to market their wares before Christmas.