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Thanksgiving
Major holiday before thisVeterans Day
Major holiday after thisChristmas

Thanksgiving 2018 and 2019

Thanksgiving has been a U.S. holiday every November since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of “Thanksgiving and praise” in 1863. Many states also observe the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday to create the much anticipated long Thanksgiving weekend.

Year Date Day Holiday States
2018 22 Nov Thu Thanksgiving Day National
23 Nov Fri Thanksgiving Friday CA, DE, FL, IA, IL, KS,
KY, ME, MI, MN, MS, NC,
NE, NH, OK, PA, SC, TN,
TX, VA, WA & WV
2019 28 Nov Thu Thanksgiving Day National
29 Nov Fri Thanksgiving Friday CA, DE, FL, IA, IL, KS,
KY, ME, MI, MN, MS, NC,
NE, NH, OK, PA, SC, TN,
TX, VA, WA & WV

Because Thanksgiving is a federal holiday, it is observed by all levels of government, schools, public offices and most businesses. Families generally gather together for a turkey dinner and assorted traditional side dishes. Although many people also have Friday off, and retail stores are open for Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year.

Various days of Thanksgiving had been celebrated in America since the earliest pilgrims arrived in the 17th century. In the public mind, the first Thanksgiving Day occurred in 1621 when the Plymouth Pilgrim community joined in a feast with local Indians to celebrate the first harvest that the colonists had reaped on American soil. Indeed, 90 Indians and 53 Pilgrims feasted for three days at that event, and it was an official day of giving thanks to God for his blessings.

Throughout the colonial era, thanksgiving church services held, and public, one-time thanksgiving observances were declared by governments. In Virginia, beginning with a thanksgiving day at Jamestown in 1610, such observances were rather routine. The Puritans in Massachusetts began such celebrations in 1630 and had them frequently, eventually making it an annual colonial festival in 1680. In Connecticut, Dutch New Netherlands, Spanish colonies now part of the United States, and throughout the settled American continent, the same pattern was followed.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress declared numerous days of thanksgiving. One instance came in 1777, after a great victory at the Battle of Saratoga. General Washington declared a day of thanksgiving, and Samuel Adams wrote that the day was to be one of “acknowledging with gratitude their obligation to God for benefits received” and for “imploring him for such further blessings as they stood in need of.”

Under the new Constitution, presidents continued the practice of declaring national days of thanksgiving. Washington famously did so for an observance on Thursday, November 26th, 1789. This came right after the First Amendment had passed the House of Representatives, and Congress petitioned Washington to declare the thanksgiving. Washington said it was a day to be thankful for “the many signal favors of Almighty God” on the nation.

President Lincoln declared a thanksgiving day in 1863 on the last Thursday of November, which continued annually from then till now. This was done in the midst of the Civil War and was designed for thanksgiving for blessings, penitence for the nation’s sins, and prayers for the wounded soldiers and the widows and orphans of the fallen. Lincoln prayed that God would “heal the wounds of the nation and restore it.”

In 1939, F.D.R. broke the Lincoln tradition in that he declared the date moved to the fourth Thursday in November, which did not always coincide with the last Thursday. This led to controversy and the two dates were dubbed “Republican Thanksgiving” and “Democratic Thanksgiving.” Finally, in 1941, a law was passed that permanently fixed the date according to Roosevelt’s “innovation.”