Thanksgiving Has Not Always Been In November?


Have you ever wondered how Thanksgiving Day was chosen to be on the fourth Thursday in November of every year? Did you ever realize that maybe Thanksgiving Day was not even celebrated in November for many years. Let me give you the scoop!

Continental Congress

Our First National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation was given by the Continental Congress in 1777 and continued through the year 1784; in which Thanksgiving Day was held in November only one time, as listed below:

December 18, 1777, a Thursday
December 30, 1778, a Wednesday
December 9, 1779, a Thursday
December 7, 1780, a Thursday
December 13, 1781, No Day Given
November 28, 1782, a Thursday
1785-1788 No Thanksgiving Proclamation Issued

George Washington

The first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation was given by our first president, George Washington on November 26, 1789, a Thursday. Listed below are the Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations that designated a day of thanks to God, also known as Thanksgiving Day that were not celebrated in November.

Second Thursday in December, 1783
October 19,1784, a Tuesday
February 19, 1795, a Thursday
May 9, 1798, a Wednesday
April 25, 1799, a Thursday
January 12, 1814, a Thursday
Second Thursday in April, 1815
September 18, 1862, a Thursday (Confederate States)
1815-1861 No Presidential Proclamations Given
First Thursday in December, 1865

Presidential Proclamation Thanksgiving dates given by Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson

In 1863 (the second of his Proclamations during the year), Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation proclaimed that the last Thursday in November would be designated as our (resurrected) “National” Thanksgiving Day. Despite this proclamation, in 1865 Andrew Johnson designated the first Thursday in December as Thanksgiving.


A joint resolution passed by Congress on December 26, 1941 designated that the fourth Thursday in November would now be considered Thanksgiving Day.

Reasons for Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations gave thanks to God for many things. The President gave thanks for a victorious battle, thanks for the winning of a war (Civil War), thanks for the courageous and determined English settlers who came to the new world and struggled to make our country what it is today, thanks for good employment and prosperity or just thanks in appreciating our American freedoms. Depending on the issues surrounding the current President during his term, is usually what his thanks are based upon.

Berkleley (Hundred), Charles City, Virginia, in 1619

On December 4, 1619, English settlers landed in Charles City, Virginia at a place called Berkeley Hundred, and as required by their charter, Charter Berkeley Hundred, it stated “Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Today, many consider this the “First Thanksgiving.”