Thanksgiving and Christmas Shopping
People tend to act like each year’s Christmas shopping season is the Worst One Yet, with America eternally in danger of dropping off a cliff into Total Commercialism. It’s an easy news story to write I guess. Pretend that this year it’s really bad and ignore that you wrote the same thing last year, but in fact it’s always been the case that Thanksgiving signaled the start of the Christmas shopping season, and stores have always tried to move that date up earlier in the year. From the FDR Presidential Library’s website, The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings:
> At the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. However, Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November because that was the day President Abraham Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Franklin Roosevelt continued that tradition, but he soon found that tradition was difficult to keep in extreme circumstances such as the Great Depression. His first Thanksgiving in office, 1933, fell on November 30th, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. Since statistics showed that most people did not do their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, business leaders feared they would lose money, especially during the Depression, because there were only 24 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They asked Franklin Roosevelt to make Thanksgiving one week earlier. President Roosevelt ignored those concerns in 1933, but when Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November in 1939, FDR reconsidered the request and moved the date of Thanksgiving up one week. Thanksgiving 1939 would be held, President Roosevelt proclaimed, on November 23rd and not November 30th.
More stuff, including scans of primary sources, in the link.