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US Presidents
Abraham Lincoln

When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday?


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November 23, 2011 1:50AM

President Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 asking "all Americans to ask God to "commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife" and to "heal the wounds of the nation." He made the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day. Congress would riot make Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1870.

The first official US holidays were declared by Congress on June 28, 1870. New Years Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day were all declared holidays in the first act. George Washington's Birthday was declared a holiday in 1871.

Interesting Facts:

According to Title 5 of the US Code, neither Congress or the President has the authority to declare a holiday that must be enforced by the states - Federal holidays are only applicable to Federal employees and the District of Columbia.

Each state chooses which holidays it will recognize.


"The act of June 28, 1870, which was apparently prompted by a memorial drafted

by local "bankers and business men," provided that New Year's Day, Independence

Day, Christmas Day, and "any day appointed or recommended by the President of the

United States as a day of public fasting or thanksgiving [were] to be holidays within the District." This legislation was drafted "to correspond with similar laws of States

around the District,"3 and "in every State of the Union."

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March 30, 2011 10:11PM

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