1789- America’s 1st national Thanksgiving

November 26, 2022

Ask any American grade schooler about pilgrims, and the responses will likely contain the name of a ship called the Mayflower. The story about settlers landing in Plymouth after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is part of the American origin story. Also part of this story is the first American Thanksgiving, a fall feast celebrating the cooperation between the pilgrims and the local indigenous peoples.

Thanksgiving Becomes Official

While much of the story about America's first Thanksgiving is exaggerated, the events leading up to George Washington's Thanksgiving day proclamation are factual. By 1789 President Washington and the rest of the young United States felt secure enough to start thinking about the future. Thus, President Washington proclaimed November 26, 1789, as a national day of thanks.

Lincoln Adds To The Holiday

After that 1789 proclamation, Americans responded with enthusiasm as they started celebrating Thanksgiving. But the dates vary by region, family, and culture as the country hurled toward civil war. President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as the national day of thanks more than fifty years after Washington's Proclamation. President Lincoln harkened back to President Washington's appeal for American unity. Indeed, the 1789 proclamation contains words like "union" and "freedom," as both Presidents understood the value of uniting for a cause in the wake of potential failure.

Roosevelt and The Thanksgiving We Celebrate Today

Post-Civil War America celebrated Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November until 1941, when President Roosevelt signed a law that made the 4th Thursday in November the official date. Since 1880, Thanksgiving had been a federal holiday because of the Holidays Act. However, the official day for celebrating Thanksgiving wasn't established for more than a century later.

Why did President Washington and Congress pick the 4th Thursday of the month? Everyone agreed the date gave Americans enough time to prepare for Christmas. It seems President Roosevelt saw the potential for an additional week of shopping and the ever-popular Black Friday.




  1. Shannon Quinn

    I’m grateful for the backstory of the declaration of Thanksgiving. Great read!

  2. Barry Adcox

    I love history but I enjoyed reading this one story about Thanksgiving! I’m not an educated man at all but I was born some 63 years ago on Thanksgivings I learned some from this story! I hate to watch tv today but I can’t turn it on without hearing something about someone who hates what is left as the beautiful country this once was! I think just a few years back we were as close to each other as ever as a country could be! And I have seen since the devil and his people changed everything and tried to turn us against each other and control our lives. I really don’t think this country can take much more of these kind of people as a believer I could sleep better because I felt like my granddaughter’s would have a better country than I had. But if as many people voted for Biden I’m not sure I can rest like I did at one time! I felt it in the way people would speak to each other and smile no matter which color of skin they had! Since the people who hate us use us so they can control us! I don’t think anyone can speak the truth and say things are better now than three years ago, like I said earlier I’m not educated but I do have eyes and a great big heart!


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