Two Thanksgivings

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Two Thanksgivings

By Joe Natale

Somebody find the fainting couch and fetch the smelling salts, because I do believe we are suffering a case of the vapors. What is it this time that is upsetting our collective equilibrium? Shutting down the government? Raising the debt ceiling? Crashing the Obamacare web site?

No. The latest national temper tantrum is over some stores being open on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s is one of the stores that will get a head start on Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving evening. In the past few years, stores have been opening earlier and earlier as Black Friday approached, causing a firestorm on social media sites like Twitter, where people rail that opening on Thanksgiving is like defacing a Norman Rockwell painting with a carving knife.

On the other hand, retailers have a significant investment in a healthy, and extended, holiday shopping season, which is sorely needed this year since Thanksgiving lands on about the latest day possible, presenting a shortened shopping season.

Since 1863, when the guy who used to live at Eighth and Jackson Streets in Springfield proclaimed it a national holiday, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Fast forward to 1933, when merchants, who were trying to claw out from the depth of the Great Depressions, were facing a 24 day shopping season as Thanksgiving landed on Nov. 30.

Los Angeles merchants asked Franklin Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving to a week earlier. The problem of doing that was it would upset school schedules, football games, vacation and calendars, which were printed two years in advance.

Roosevelt did not make the change in 1933, but the same problem occurred again in 1939, and then he moved Thanksgiving Day to a week earlier. This divided the nation: 23 states proclaimed Nov. 23 as Thanksgiving Day; 23 states proclaimed Nov. 30 as Thanksgiving Day. Covering their bases, Colorado and Texas celebrated Thanksgiving on both dates.

In 1940, Roosevelt declared the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving. Finally, in 1941, Congress settled on fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day. But after all that, in 2013, we’re right back where we started with Thanksgiving on Nov. 29.

 Joe Natale

Joe Natale is a freelance writer from Springfield.

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