Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In October 1941, Congress passed H.J. Res. 41, which declared the last Thursday in November a legal holiday. In December 1941, the resolution was amended to establish the holiday as the fourth Thursday, taking into account years when November has five Thursdays.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Thanksgiving. It provides links to sample congressional speeches, presidential proclamations, and cultural and historical resources.

Thanksgiving: Fact Sheet

November 13, 2017 (R44279)

Introduction

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday observed on the fourth Thursday in November. It began in 1621 as a harvest celebration between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians and has become a time for families and friends to gather to reflect and to express gratitude.

In 1789, President George Washington declared November 26 a national day of Thanksgiving. Subsequent Presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the dates of the commemoration changed. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving

In October 1941, Congress passed H.J. Res. 41, which declared the last Thursday in November a legal holiday. In December 1941, the resolution was amended to establish the holiday as the fourth Thursday, taking into account years when November has five Thursdays.

This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Thanksgiving. It provides links to sample congressional speeches, presidential proclamations, and cultural and historical resources.

CRS Report

CRS Report R41990, Federal Holidays: Evolution and Current Practices, by [author name scrubbed]

Sample Congressional Speeches

Members of Congress often make floor statements, issue press releases, and enter Extensions of Remarks into the Congressional Record to recognize federal holidays. The following are some examples that may be of assistance in preparing such statements:

Presidential Proclamations

One of the uses of a presidential proclamation is to honor a group or call attention to certain issues or events. Proclamations commemorating Thanksgiving include the following:

Earlier presidential proclamations are available through the Federal Digital System (FDsys) on the Government Publishing Office (GPO) website.

Thanksgiving Day Resources

Numerous government resources provide information on the history and culture of the holiday. Some of these include the following:

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Reference Librarian ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])