Thanksgiving festivities have certainly evolved over the years. The ways we celebrate (or avoid) the holiday have changed: from localized practices, to written laws, to time-honored traditions. Let’s explore some interesting facts that establish the way we observe this autumn harvest festival.
When do people celebrate thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving has historically been held on various days:
- 1815: President James Madison proclaims two Thanksgivings: one in spring and one in fall.
- 1939-1940: President Franklin D. Roosevelt lengthens the shopping season for depression-era retailers by setting Thanksgiving on the third Thursday in November.
- 1941: Congress passes a joint resolution that officially establishes the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving.
The presidential turkey pardon
It’s a well-established tradition to gift the president with a turkey:
- Unlike thousands of other turkeys on this holiday, the presidential turkey receives a pardon and lives the rest of its life at an animal sanctuary.
- The first turkey pardon was in 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln spared a Christmas turkey that his son took a liking to.
- Over 100 years later, President John F. Kennedy spared another turkey on Thanksgiving, saying, “Let’s keep it going.” The tradition remains in practice today.
Buy your liquor ahead of time
- Many states have laws against selling liquor on Thanksgiving. Some laws ban liquor sales entirely, limit the type of liquor available, or specify where you can buy it.
- In Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Tennessee, you can buy booze in a restaurant or bar but not off premises. In Alabama, you can purchase beer and wine but not spirits.
- For residents of Delaware and Kansas, there are no sales of alcohol permitted on Thanksgiving. Kansas still hasn’t ratified the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed nationwide prohibition in 1933.
Why are stores closed on Thanksgiving?
“Blue laws” (also known as Sunday laws) were first passed in the Colonial Era. The laws prohibit or limit the kinds of business you can conduct on religious holidays:
- Some states require that businesses apply for a permit in order to open on Thanksgiving.
- There are exceptions to blue laws if a business’ closure would cause serious suffering, loss, damage, or public inconvenience.
- Many states have no labor restrictions on holidays. The states that do uphold these blue laws are slowly phasing them out.
Celebrate Thanksgiving your way!
No matter how you celebrate—whether it’s a gigantic feast or a dinner for one—we hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving! Here’s an infographic to help illustrate some of the strange (but true) Thanksgiving traditions.