Joint Congressional Resolution Which Created Thanksgiving as a Federal Holiday on the Final Thursday in November
“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the last Thursday of November each year after the year 1941 being down at Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the fourth day of July, the first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays.”
Although Thanksgiving was not declared a federal holiday until 1941, there were official days of thanksgivings proclaimed by both the Congress and several presidents. The most well known Thanksgiving proclamation issued by a president was issued by George Washington in 1789. The Thanksgiving proclamation, by Abraham Lincoln, which resulted in the annual celebration of Thanksgiving (except for two years) is also available on BingoforPatriots.com
The following summary of how Thanksgiving became a Federal Holiday is excerpted from Stephen W. Stathis (1999)Federal Holiday: Evolution and Application. CRS Report for Congress: “President George Washington issued the first proclamation calling for “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on Thursday, November 26, 1789. Six years later, Washington called for a second day of thanksgiving on Thursday, February 19, 1795. Not until 1863, however, did the nation begin to observe the occasion annually. That year, President Abraham Lincoln issued a thanksgiving proclamation requesting “citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourned in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November … as a day of Thanksgiving.” During the next three quarters of a century, each President, by proclamation, established the exact date for the celebration each year. Beginning in 1870, Thanksgiving became a paid holiday for at least a portion of the federal work force, after Congress gave the President power to designate a day of thanksgiving, which was to be a holiday within the District of Columbia.
The tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November, begun by President Lincoln in 1863, was faithfully followed, each year but two, until
1939. That year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. By moving Thanksgiving up a week, Roosevelt
“hoped to aid retail business by producing a longer Christmas shopping season.” Although Roosevelt’s decision was greeted enthusiastically by the business
community, others, including a sizable portion of the public, as well as a large number of state officials, protested against changing the longstanding American
tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Despite this criticism, Roosevelt repeated his action in 1940. By May 1941, however, the
administration concluded that the experiment of advancing the observance date had not worked.
A law signed by President Roosevelt on December 26, 1941, settled the dispute and permanently established Thanksgiving Day as a federal holiday to be observed on the fourth Thursday in November. The intent was to “stabilize the date so that there [would] be no confusion at any time in the future without congressional
action.” President Roosevelt announced, shortly before the resolution was approved, “that the reasons for which the change was made do not justify a continued change in the date.”