The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings

The year 1939 featured not one, but two, Thanksgivings. President Franklin Roosevelt was busy trying to drag the country out of the Great Depression and to prepare the nation for the approaching war. When Thanksgiving rolled around, his mind was clearly focused on the Great Depression. At that time, Thanksgiving wasn’t even an official holiday. Abraham Lincoln had decreed that it would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November when he proclaimed it a national holiday back in 1863, but that wasn’t set in stone. Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving while in office occurred in 1933, a year that featured five Thursdays. Then, as now, the Christmas shopping season didn’t officially kick off until after Americans had dug into their turkey. However, since there would only be 24 shopping days left after Thanksgiving fell on November 30th, some business leaders urged Roosevelt to declare the fourth — not the last — Thursday, as the national day of Thanksgiving. He said thanks but no thanks. However, in 1939 the same issue rolled around, with Thanksgiving again falling on November 30th. That meant another shortened Christmas shopping season and raised the same worries from merchants and the business community. So, the president took the bait and proclaimed November 23rd, not November 30th, to officially be Thanksgiving Day.