Why Is Thanksgiving Always on a Thursday in November?

A Brief History of Thanksgiving Days

Notice that doesn't say “a brief history of Thanksgiving.” That's because we're not here to talk about successful harvests. We're here to talk about days of the week, which ends up being just as interesting anyway.

As far as we're able to ascertain, days of thanks have been being celebrated by our country’s inhabitants since the 16th century, put on initially by Spaniards and Frenchmen. The first (roughly) dated English Thanksgiving occurred in Jamestown, Virginia in 1610, though we don't know the exact date. Following that, there were some English settlers in 1619 that put on a celebration of a similar kind. Then, of course, there's the one y'all know about: the Plymouth Plantation Thanksgiving, celebrated with Squanto (a member of the Patuxet tribe) in 1621. While we know that these events happened, we don't really have any exact dates. So, we're going to skip ahead 150 years.


Fun Thanksgiving Traditions

Image Credit: terren in Virginia via Creative Comm
Image Credit: terren in Virginia via Creative Commons

Although food has been the center of attention for centuries, Thanksgiving traditions are more than family reunions around the dinner table! These traditions have many roots and can take on many forms. If you’re up for some new activities that go beyond sharing what you’re thankful for and watching the Macy’s Day Parade, here are some Thanksgiving traditions you need to try!

Friendsgiving Celebrations

While the day of Thanksgiving is traditionally spent with your family, you can also celebrate with your friends. Planning a Friendsgiving celebration a week or two before Thanksgiving weekend can make this holiday extra-special!

Turkey Trotting

Joining a Turkey Trot can help you make more room for a generous dinner while having a hilarious time racing your family, friends, and neighbors! It’s a quirky activity that brings a community together and can be made more fun with costumes and kid-friendly activities.

Picture Perfect Memories

Since everyone takes family photos during Thanksgiving, how do you take yours to the next level? Try to be as imaginative as possible for your photos using themed attire, props, and behind-the-scenes shots taken throughout the day. To uniquely capture everything, consider giving your family members disposable cameras. It helps them immortalize their favorite Thanksgiving moments on film, and you could develop these photos and use them for holiday cards!

Washington and Lincoln

When George Washington was in office, Thanksgiving was being celebrated on Thursdays in November. In 1777, the Continental Congress actually declared Thanksgiving to be a national holiday in America. They are part of the reason that it was celebrated on Thursdays in November. Since 1863, they were rotated to different Thursdays, but there was never an official rule in place.

Lincoln made it a point to tell the American people that even though the Civil War was destroying the country, it was truly important to give thanks for all of the good that they had in lives despite the war going on around them.

Image: pixabay.com

In reality, the timeline and history of events is a little hazier

What we consider to be the first Thanksgiving apparently happened in 1621, when colonizers in Plymouth, MA threw a three day long festival of successful harvest season, at which about 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe were in attendance.

Set in Stone

For 70 years Thanksgiving continued in this manner, always on the final Thursday of the month, until 1939, when November had 5 Thursdays instead of 4. This was when the current President, Franklin D Roosevelt, moved it to the fourth Thursday of the month.

Several years later (after a little flip flopping on the matter), it was fixed by Congress (and later the House and the President) that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, from there on out.

Oh yeah, and huge freakin’ turkey meal with your people at about 4 PM

(And no, apparently none of those things were at that original meal, the Pilgrims and natives were eating things like seal and swan, which is gross.)

Anyhow, while I certainly love me some pie and can’t always complain about a good parade, I have to say that the coolest part of Thanksgiving, in my opinion, will always be that whole "being thankful" thing. While sometimes its not possible to be with family or your closest friends during the holidays, or on the other hand, if the holidays just plain and simple feel like an overwhelming bummer to you, try to let yourself at least enjoy a little gratitude this Thursday with whatever meal you end up eating, even if it’s frozen pizza.

You might just be thankful you did.