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History of the United States

What US president made Thanksgiving a national holiday?


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February 21, 2016 1:01AM

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln both made proclamations to celebrate Thanksgiving. However, it was not a fixed holiday with states celebrating on different days.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day during the Civil War, on October 3, 1863.

He asked that the nation give thanks for the Union on the last Thursday of November. That made the first true national autumn Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 26, 1863, recognizing a long-standing New England tradition of placing the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.

He did it partially to help soothe the national mood, which was weary of the Civil War. He declared Thanksgiving again for November 23, 1864. In 1865, his successor, Andrew Johnson, declared a Thanksgiving for December 7, 1865, and presidents traditionally declared a Thanksgiving for every autumn since. (Andrew Johnson was the first to give government employees the day off, making it a legal holiday.)

In 1941, Congress passed a bill, and FDR signed it, that fixed the date as the fourth Thursday in November. FDR attempted to move the holiday to the third Thursday in November, but Congress enacted a law to fix the date at the fourth Thursday in November, thus making it an "official" holiday. On November 26, 1941, FDR signed the bill.

See the Related Link for a complete time line of the history of Thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863 with the Thanksgiving Declaration. Thanksgiving was always held on the last Thursday of November that was the day President Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863; however, in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, changed the date of Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. A law was passed by Congress on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year.