It can fall on any day between November 22 and 28, depending on the year, but it hasn’t always been the fourth Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving is an American tradition that goes back to 1621, when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated their shared harvest. American colonists routinely marked days of Thanksgiving, and in 1777, the Continental Congress declared a day of Thanksgiving to mark the American victory at Saratoga.
George Washington was the first president to declare a day of Thanksgiving in 1789. That one celebrated the U.S. Constitution. But it wasn’t a national holiday until 1863, when President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving. It stayed that way until Franklin Roosevelt broke with tradition.
In 1939, FDR wanted to boost the economy by extending the Christmas shopping season an extra week. So he moved Thanksgiving -- a holiday he often celebrated at Warm Springs -- to the next-to-last Thursday in November. A lot of people didn’t like the idea.
FDR signed a bill firmly establishing the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day on November 26, 1941, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.