FDR Moves Thanksgiving: November 23, 1939

FDR Moves Thanksgiving: November 23, 1939

President schedules Thanksgiving for 1940
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt upset the majority of the nation when he changed the date of Thanksgiving. Up to that point, the date of Thanksgiving hadn’t been set by federal law, but since Lincoln’s presidency, it had become tradition to hold the holiday on the last Thursday in November.

In 1939, though, November had five Thursdays, so Thanksgiving was going to fall on the 30th, which retail lobbyists worried would shorten—and therefore hurt—the Christmas shopping season. So in August, Roosevelt decided to move Thanksgiving up a week, to the second-to-last Thursday, the 23rd.

Happy Franksgiving
The move created an uproar. Not only did many people dislike this change to what had become a tradition, but moving the date of Thanksgiving disrupted vacation plans, football schedules, and calendar production.

Since Thanksgiving’s date wasn’t determined by federal law, individual governors could decide whether their states would side with the president or keep the holiday on its traditional date. That first year, 23 states celebrated on the old date, 22 on the new day, and 3 on both. The two dates began to be known as Republican Thanksgiving and Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving (also commonly called “Franksgiving,” based on the president’s first name), though the division wasn’t entirely along party lines.

Majority of Americans don't want to move Thanksgiving in 1939
The following year, 1940, Roosevelt again moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday, and that year 32 states celebrated with the president, while 16 stuck with tradition. Come 1941, data from the last two Christmas shopping seasons revealed that making Thanksgiving come earlier hadn’t had a significant effect on sales, so Roosevelt decided to bow to popular opinion and move Thanksgiving back to its traditional date, with the change to take effect in 1942.

But in the fall of 1941, Congress decided to cement the date of Thanksgiving once and for all by passing a resolution that officially set the date for the fourth Thursday in November. President Roosevelt signed it into law on December 26, 1941.

Find more articles about Roosevelt’s Thanksgiving experiment on Newspapers.com. Or search for other topics that interest you.

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35 thoughts on “FDR Moves Thanksgiving: November 23, 1939

  1. Why a Thursday? Thanksgiving should really be a celebration of the harvest and, more appropriately, be celebrated in October sometime. Of course, fans of Halloween wouldn’t be keen on that I suppose. But Thursday makes no sense at all – why not Friday??? And a week earlier at least?

    • Thanksgiving is for thanking God for the his blessings. Festivals just celebrating the harvest are pagan ideas.

      • Brilliant. Blessings from a mythological figure trump the actual days of the harvest.

      • Maryjean,
        Where exactly do you think Christmas and Easter come from? Neither were celebrated by the early Christian church.

        Both dates were chosen by the Roman Catholics as an adoption of two pagan holidays to encourage pagans to convert to Christianity. Christmas was a pagan celebration marking the Winter Solstice, and Easter was a pagan fertility festival.

        The original Thanksgiving celebration was at the conclusion of the harvest, which was originally another pagan festival. It was changed to accomodate the retailers in this country, which is only fitting, as we have all become tools of big business. Forget Christ, unless he causes the almighty dollar to flow into your money-grubbing pocket.

      • I’m thinking you need to spend a little time in both the Old and the New Testament. Harvest and the celebration of it are pretty much the theme…did you miss it?

        Three harvest seasons of humanity
        God’s seven biblical festivals are contained within the three major harvest seasons of the Holy Land: the barley harvest, the later spring wheat harvest, and the great ingathering late summer and fall harvest.
        God identifies the three major harvest seasons in Deuteronomy 16: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed” (verse 16). The entire family generally observes the festivals of God, including women and children (see Nehemiah:8:1-12
        These three festivals symbolically portray humanity’s salvation in successive stages. Each stage involves greater numbers than its predecessor. Let’s explore these in their biblical order.
        The early harvests
        The first harvest season, the barley harvest, is the smallest, yet in a significant sense the greatest. Generally referred to as the Passover season, it includes the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the first spring harvest and is a lighter one, as the ripened barley is a relatively lighter-weighted grain than wheat.
        Within the Passover/Unleavened Bread season is the wave-sheaf offering (Leviticus:23:10-14

        This is where the significance of the lighter harvest comes into play: It represents only one man, the Son of man—Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering, as He was accepted by God after His resurrection on the very day the wave-sheaf offering was waved before God for its acceptance before the barley harvest could begin.
        Just as the first of the annual harvest seasons began with the wave-sheaf offering, the first harvest of humankind for immortality in God’s Kingdom began with Jesus Christ. Without this important beginning, the following two harvest seasons could never come about. Humanity’s salvation is absolutely dependent on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John:12:23-25
        The second harvest festival is called the Feast of Pentecost, this being the Greek word for “fiftieth,” as the festival was held 50 days from the wave-sheaf offering, counting the wave sheaf as day one (Leviticus:23:15-17
        In the Old Testament this festival is called the Feast of Harvest, Feast of Weeks or simply Firstfruits (Exodus:23:16; Deuteronomy:16:10; Numbers:28:26).
        This feast represents the harvesting of the firstfruits in God’s plan for humanity—including the Old Testament saints and those who throughout history have been part of the New Testament Church Jesus founded. The spiritual fulfillment of this Feast of Firstfruits began when God sent His Spirit to the original members of His Church—which, significantly, happened on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits or Pentecost (Acts:2:1-4
        This harvest of the human firstfruits continues until the return of Christ Jesus, when they are resurrected to eternal life as immortal spirit beings (1 Corinthians:15:50-52
        ; 1 Thessalonians:4:15-17
        This is why the members of God’s true Church are repeatedly called “firstfruits” in the Scriptures (see Romans:8:23; 16:5; 1 Corinthians:16:15; James:1:18; Revelation:14:4).
        So far we have seen that the biblical harvest festivals represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ to immortality, followed by God’s calling of those whom He places within His Church, who will be resurrected to immortality at Christ’s return.
        If we were to stop at this point, we would remain ignorant of the significance of God’s final harvest festival: the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus:23:16). The very name gloriously defines the purpose of this great feast and offers the greatest hope to an otherwise hopeless humanity. How tragic it is that so few people understand and keep these feasts, and so remain ignorant of God’s great plan and purpose for us!
        The fall harvest season’s festivals
        God’s Word likens Him to a farmer who patiently tends His crop, waiting for the right time to harvest. Notice James:5:7: “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain” (emphasis added throughout). In His case, the “precious fruit of the earth” means human beings who will receive His wonderful gift of eternal life as members of His spirit family (for more details, request our free booklet What Is Your Destiny? ).
        As wonderful as God’s master plan of salvation as depicted through these three harvest seasons is, there is an end to His harvesting of humanity. That last season is fittingly summarized as the Feast of Ingathering.
        The events signified by this final festival season are the great hope of humanity, including the multiple billions of people who died in vain, without hope, without a future. The numbers resurrected during this time of salvation will be staggering.
        This harvest season actually includes four different festivals, all of them with distinct meaning. They are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.

        • Karen, you need to get a hobby. You obviously have waaaaay too much time on your hands. And you didn’t mention harvesting grapes for wine, and we all know you can’t be a Christian without drinking alcohol. Also, if you’re going to say “request our free booklet” (which I’m not going to do) it would be nice to say where and how to request it. I’m left assuming that you’re a member of one of the lunatic fringe groups claiming to be a religion.

        • So really what you seem to imply is that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ you should be a Scrooge at Christmas. But in reality it has evolved to what it always was- a Festival of Light in darkest Winter. Cheers and peace to all faiths and none.

      • Hmmmmmmm …Let’s see, Mayday, Halloween, National Pasta Day …Hasn’t just about EVERY “holiday” become mostly about retail sales? Most of us have no idea, nor really give a rip, about any historical pagan root aspects. Instead we watch football, gorge on turkey and gravy and blast out to frantically BUY, BUY, BUY a plethora of unnecessary Christmas items!! WWJD?!!! :^) (Isn’t Arbor Day coming up? Gotta’ race out and buy a tree …or at least plant a bush. Catcha’ later!)

    • Interestingly, when I was a youngster, trick or treating in costume was celebrated by kids in Jersey City, New Jersey, on both Halloween and Thanksgiving Day. Since I am no longer in JC on Thanksgiving, and haven’t been for six decades, I do not know if that tradition still remains. However, I never heard of such a tradition in any other locale.

    • Seriously? A 4 day weekend? You want to give that up? It has already been shortened. It used to be a week long and it involved the whole village or town and had some Native Americans at every celebration.

    • The reason Lincoln established Thanksgiving was not because of a Harvest Festival tradition. He issued a proclamation to establish Thanksgiving in October 1863…. & set the date a month later in November, so that word would have time to spread. It may also have to do with the fact that in November he was scheduled to dedicate the cemetery at Gettysburg. Today’s Thanksgiving has more to do with 1863 (the bloodiest year of the Civil War) than it does with the Puritan Thanksgiving, which is something that we need to remember after having been at war for a dozen years now. It was FDR that actually created the “shopping season” between Thanksgiving & Xmas. Corporations desperately needed people to shop, so shopping in the Depression became a patriotic thing to do… so the gift giving aspect of Xmas became paramount. They are now trying to turn Easter into a gift giving holiday. In the end, some corporations may regret moving shopping into Thanksgiving day because it will ultimately destroy the idea of Thanksgiving Dinner…. bad for turkey farmers… bad for grocery stores… probably even bad for travel in the end because people will chose to shop rather than travel to have that big dinner with family… & when more & more people have to work to support 4 day non-stop shopping binge, that also means less travel, fewer dinners, etc.

  2. In Canada, we do celebrate Thanksgiving in October, and it’s not tied to Christmas at all.

    • I lived in Canada for five years and loved celebrating Thanksgiving in October: nice weather, pretty leaves, and a calmer, slower-paced “rush” to Christmas. But I suppose if we celebrated Thanksgiving in October retailers would start putting out Christmas stuff after Labor Day.

      • That is so true. Don’t rush any holiday. Thanksgiving is for thanking God for everything you have. Christmas is for Christ birthday AMEN

  3. I’m with Canada! It certainly would make more sense to have “Thanksgiving”, or “Harvest Home”, in October, in the northern states, anyway. We often get considerable snowfall by the latter part of November, and it makes little sense to try to “get to Gramaw’s house, come hell or high water”, risking life and limb, when it could have been done a month earlier with less likelihood of slippery ice or snow. I personally prefer the “Harvest Home” festival, celebrating all the work done by the producers of our food during the “growing season”, as well as year round. To them, in their various jobs, go my thanks!

  4. It happens that if Thanksgiving were on the last or the next to last Thursday in November, it would be in the same position every year in relation to the Last Sunday before Advent (Christ the King Sunday, to Catholics) whereas being defined as the fourth Sunday, counting from the beginning of the month, it is before Christ the King29% of the time and after it 71% of the time.

  5. But the 30th of November in 1939 was the day when Soviet Union attacked Finland with plans to occupy the small country. Well the war lasted 100 days and Finland was not invaded.

  6. Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the Christmas shopping season anymore. It seems stores start selling Christmas decorations the day after Halloween.

  7. So Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the pilgrims and Indian s? And why do they say Christopher Columbus discovered .America when the Indians were already there?

    • …and Christopher Columbus actually ‘discovered’ the Bahamas…which had been [pre-]discovered by the vikings 500 years before that.

  8. Let’s not crash head long into a clash between Thanksgiving and Halloween, that very unique day for many special* Americans who were born on October 31st. Let’s not fix something that isn’t broke.

  9. A past article in the London Times seeks to remind us that the Pilgrims in America were religious fanatics with Talibanish tendencies- they executed Quakers in public.

  10. People just love disagreeing with other people. They also love attacking people and their choices. Can’t you take this article for what it is? It’s just an interesting story in reference to how an American President along with the Legislature Branch of the U.S. finalized when the citizens of the U.S. would celebrate Thanksgiving (for those who choose to celebrate it for whatever reasons). That’s that. Shut up and quit shoving your opinions down people’s throats and attacking others choices.

  11. It is a very interesting article. I am a freethinker and enjoy all the holidays the different religious folks have come up with. The holidays amuse me. I respect all who have religious beliefs and ask that my freethinking is afforded respect in return. Without religion there would be far fewer wars in our world. And far fewer holidays to get the day off work with pay….. I guess religion has its place in our society as does all the holidays.

  12. It never fails to amuse me how people get so upset about others having strong beliefs. Live and let live, please. Don’t make more of this article than it was.

  13. It’s not THAT interesting.. I had my hopes up thinking that perhaps Thanksgiving had originally been celebrated on a day other than Thursday. But no… BARELY interesting. C’est la vie!

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