Thanksgiving was initially declared a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, and was celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
Fast forward to today: the United States celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth, though not necessarily the last, Thursday of November.
How did this change come about? We can thank Mr. Economy.
The change took place during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's time in office; a time that saw the country in a deep economic depression. The man credited with talking President Roosevelt into changing Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday was Fred Lazarus, Jr.
Fred Lazarus, Jr. was the founder of Federated Department Stores (FDS), which most of us know now as Macy's. Lazarus was concerned that a late Thanksgiving would give customers fewer dates to shop for Christmas presents at FDS and other department stores.
In both 1933 and 1939, Thanksgiving fell on November 30th, and because most consumers did not start Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, businesses were worried about losing more money.
So, in 1939, President Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday of November. This shifted the holiday to November 23rd instead of November 30th, causing some chaos throughout the country.
Big businesses were pleased but smaller businesses were not, fearing they would lose more money to big businesses. Calendar makers were out of luck with every calendar they had pre-printed for the coming years. Schools had to shift their schedules to adjust the days off.
The chaos caused some states to defy the Presidential Proclamation and continue to celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month. This in turn caused more problems as some families living in different states did not get off work or school on the same day of the year.
This lack of unity led to Congress passing a law on December 26, 1941 stating that Thanksgiving Day would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November every year, therefore, extending the Christmas shopping season in years with five Thursdays in November.
This change has been linked to the birth of "Black Friday", which has become the biggest shopping day of the year. Fred Lazarus, Jr. was likely very thankful for the official change in dates because afterwards, "Black Friday" became FDS's most profitable day, nationally.
Historically, department stores all over the nation, including Macy's, sponsored Thanksgiving Day parades, using them to advertise for "Black Friday" and the Christmas rush.
Over the years, "Black Friday" has led to "Cyber Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" which refer to the increase in online shopping sales.