A Thanksgiving Day compromise

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Do you know why today is Thanksgiving and not next Thursday? The answer has to do with the history of business. Here's Stacey Vanek-Smith:


STACEY VANEK-SMITH: The Continental Congress made Thanksgiving a national holiday, but the states decided when it would be celebrated.

It wasn't until the Civil War that Thanksgiving was nationalized to promote unity. Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. It stayed that way until the Great Depression.

Back then it was considered indecent to advertise Christmas sales before Thanksgiving, so in 1931, Roosevelt thought he would help merchants by extending the Christmas shopping season.

He declared Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the second-to-last Thursday of November, but 22 states refused to comply.

So on November 26, 1941, FDR and Congress split the difference, declaring the 4th Thursday of the month to be Thanksgiving. Sometimes that's the last Thursday of the month, and sometimes it isn't.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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