George Washington Issues First Thanksgiving Proclamation by the American Government

On October 3, 1789

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

April 18, 1862
A PROCLAMATION by the President of the United States of America:

It has pleased Almighty God to vouchsafe signal victories to the land and naval forces engaged in suppressing an internal rebellion, and at the same time to avert from our country the dangers of foreign intervention and invasion.
It is therefore recommended to the people of the United States that at their next weekly assemblages in their accustomed places of public worship which shall occur after notice of this proclamation shall be have been received they especially acknowledge and render thanks to our Heavenly Fathers for these inestimable blessings, that they then and there implore spiritual consolation in behalf of all who have been brought into affliction by the casualties and calamities of sedition and civil war, and that they reverently invoke the divine guidance for our national counsels, to the end that they may speedily result in the restoration of peace, harmony, and unity throughout our borders and hasten the establishment of fraternal relations among all the countries of the earth.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 10th day of April A.D. 1862, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.


Despite the changing date of Thanksgiving from year to year, the tendency was to place it in the Autumn more often than not and the dates most frequently chosen fell in November or early December.

Over time Thursday became the day of choice and the date tended to be the second Thursday in November, the last Thursday in November or the first Thursday in December.

Things were fine until 1939 and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempts to manage the economy during the Great Depression.

With the Great Depression having lasted for almost a decade and many people falling prey to the Keynesian idea that consumer spending was one of the keys to ending the Depression, a number of large retailers were concerned that, with Thanksgiving falling on November 30th that year, thereby pushing the start of the Christmas shopping season into December, that sales would be hurt.

In 1941, Congress passed a bill, which President Roosevelt signed into law, making Thanksgiving a Federal holiday and setting the date as the fourth Thursday in November. This compromise meant that Thanksgiving would generally by the last Thursday in November as, like most months, each day generally occurs only four times in the month.

When the fourth Thursday is the last Thursday there is usually about a half a week left in the month (in 1940 it fell on Nov 28th leaving less than four weeks to shop before Christmas). On the few occasions when November has five Thursdays, celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday results in four weeks of shopping before Christmas.

Now as we all know Christmas shopping starts the day after Halloween. Many of the large retailers have started Christmas lay away in late September.

Like many individuals I usually go shopping after Christmas to pick up bargains in Christmas decorations for the next year.

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