Which US President Made Thanksgiving a National Holiday?

Jennifer L. Betts
Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that is dedicated to asking thanks and eating lots of turkey. The holiday of Thanksgiving has been credited to several presidents. However, there is only one president that made it a national holiday.

Who Made Thanksgiving Official?

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863. He made it official with a proclamation that was written by William Seward. This Proclamation stated that Americans should henceforth "observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens." Lincoln used this opportunity as a way to give thanks to the Union army in the mist of the Civil War.

Early Roots

The beginning of Thanksgiving didn't start with Lincoln, however. President George Washington is given credit for beginning the idea of Thanksgiving. Washington issued a proclamation entitled "General Thanksgiving" in his first year of office. President Washington stated that October 3, 1789 be set aside as "A day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer." Furthermore, it was "to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God."

Controversial Holiday

Thanksgiving under Washington didn't become official though. Other presidents, like Thomas Jefferson, were hesitant to make Thanksgiving a national holiday that thanked a higher power because it went against their decree of a separation of church and state. This made making Thanksgiving a national holiday controversial until Lincoln's national proclamation.

Moving the Day

Getting all willy-nilly with dates for an official holiday might not seem like a good idea, but one president thought it might boost the national economy. Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the Thanksgiving holiday to the third Thursday of November in 1939. He did this in order to boost the economy with earlier Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, this change was not a popular one. After much controversy, President Roosevelt changed the national holiday back to the fourth Thursday in November 1941.

Getting Congress Involved

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. It also made Thanksgiving Day a Federal holiday. Since that day, Thanksgiving hasn't been touched again.

A Thankful Celebration

Also known as a "Day of Gluttony," families all across the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering to say thanks for the harvest and blessings of the year. In addition to the customary turkey and pumpkin pie, you might also enjoy the huge Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. When giving thanks this year, remember to say a little extra thanks to Lincoln for making it all possible.

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Which US President Made Thanksgiving a National Holiday?