Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. But why does Thanksgiving always fall on a Thursday? Let’s take a look at the origins of this tradition.
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving always on a Thursday?
Thanksgiving feasts are common in many countries. For centuries, people have been holding festivals in October or November, to show their gratitude and to offer sacrifices for being blessed with a good harvest.
When Pilgrims and Puritans emigrated from England to America in the first half of the 17th century, they brought the tradition with them. Until the time of President Lincoln, Thanksgiving was celebrated on and off, on dates that varied from state to state.
In 1863, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November to be “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”. Since then, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving each year. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date of the national holiday in the U.S.: Thanksgiving was (and still is) celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
One thing that almost never changed and remained constant since the 17th century is the day of the week: The observance of Thanksgiving was always on a Thursday. Historian James W. Baker claims that our forefathers prefered to celebrate Thanksgiving on that day because they didn’t want it to interfere with the Sabbath, a day of rest for the Puritans. Besides Sunday, the colonists also had social gatherings and religious sermons on Thursday, also called “Lecture Day”. The observance of Thanksgiving on this day of the week is probably a continuation of that tradition.
2020 is a special year and many holidays and celebrations were different because of the coronavirus. What about Thanksgiving? Is it safe to organize a Thanksgiving dinner, like we did in past years? Many Americans look to Dr. Anthony Fauci for advice. The United States’ leading infectious disease expert warns that Thanksgiving gatherings could cause spikes in positive cases of COVID-19.
In an interview with CBS Evening News in October 2020, Dr. Fauci said that people should avoid crowds and that his family won’t celebrate Thanksgiving together this year. His chidren live in three different states and organizing a family dinner would mean for them to travel. But getting on a plane and using public transportation incrases the risk of contracting the virus.
Before making Thanksgiving plans,read the considerations offered by the CDC:
- The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving (low risk) is by having a small dinner with only people living in your household or a virtual dinner with family members living in other households.
- The risk is moderate, if you have a small outdoor party with people who are part of your community – your neighbours, for example.
- High risk activities involve travelling or many persons in a room. You should avoid public transportation and large indoor events.
- To avoid getting infected, it is best to avoid crowded stores and to shop online.
- No matter how you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving, wear a mask, keep the distance between you and other people, wash your hands and use hand sanitizers.