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When Was Thanksgiving declared a Holiday?

Although the Pilgrims and the Indians celebrated a day of thanksgiving in 1621, it was not an actual American holiday until much later. 

The first “National Thanksgiving” was signed by the Continental Congress in 1777. 

George Washington issued a proclamation named “General Thanksgiving” in his first year as President.  He declared that “November 26, 1789 be set aside as a day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer; to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God.” Click here for more information

On the 3rd day of October, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the “Thanksgiving Proclamation.”  Lincoln stated that Americans should “observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving & prayer to our beneficent Father.”  He also stated that while praying Americans should “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender car all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” Click here for more information. 

Our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, moved the Thanksgiving holiday to the third Thursday of November in 1939.  His belief was that this would help the American economy with a longer shopping period for Christmas.   This change was not popular with the American people, and after much controversy. Roosevelt changed the holiday back to the fourth Thursday in November.  A joint resolution of Congress (55 Stat. 862; 5 U.S.C. 87b) was passed on December 26, 1941, officially making Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday each year.

On November 11, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill declaring Thanksgiving Day a Federal Holiday.