Of all of the holidays that we celebrate each year, Thanksgiving is perhaps one of the most favored of all. It combines all of our favorite activities, while giving most of us a welcomed day off of work. But did you know that it wasn’t a recognized as a holiday until the 1860s, and wasn’t a national holiday until the 1940s? It’s true. Read on for more fun facts about Thanksgiving!
How it became a holiday begins humbly in the mid nineteenth century. Thanks to the work of nursery rhyme author Sarah Josepha Hale (composer of Mary had a Little Lamb, among others), and her nearly endless campaigning spanning five presidents and 20 years, Thanksgiving was finally adopted as a holiday by president Lincoln in 1863. Then, some 80 years later, in 1941, President Roosevelt declared the last Thursday in November a national day of giving thanks.
That is, until he had a “bright” idea about how to help the economy… In 1939, Mr. Roosevelt decided to change the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday to the second to last Thursday in November in order to extend the Christmas shopping season and help boost the economy.
What transpired was a mess where many states (namely Texas) decided that they would take both days as holidays, while many others were unsure what day was the actual holiday at all. Prompting mass confusion among everyone. So Congress stepped in to rectify the situation, in a way that only Congress knows how. They fixed it by declaring the fourthThursday in November the recognized holiday, which means that (cleverly) it’s sometimes the last Thursday and sometimes the second to last.
Lest you think that Sarah Hale faded into history, you might be shocked to find out that the very reason that we eat turkey on Thanksgiving is in large part due to her efforts as well, not because that’s what the original settlers ate.
Because of her advocacy of the holiday from the onset, Ms. Hale also had many ideas as to what recipes we should use to serve our family in celebration of her beloved proposition. A list that includes many things we enjoy even today (a far cry from what the “original” and first Thanksgiving revelers ate), including turkey, stuffing, pumpkin and cranberry, and sweet and mashed potatoes. Can you imagine what that day would be like without such staples? Thanks Ms. Hale!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!