I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and if you participated, a successful Black Friday.
Today I thought I’d share how these days came to be.
As many of us were taught, the first Thanksgiving took place in the fall 1621. It was a three day feast of thanks hosted by the Pilgrims and a local tribe of Wampanoag. Intermittent days of thanks continued for the next hundred and fifty years, often celebrating an event, good harvest, or end of a time period, such as a drought or battle. In 1777, George Washington declared the last Thursday in November as a ‘national day of public thanksgiving and prayer’ which all thirteen colonies celebrated, particularly giving thanks for the new constitution of the newly formed nation. The next national day was declared in 1789, by then President George Washington. However, it still didn’t become a ‘yearly’ celebration, until 1863.
For over 40 years, Sara Josepha Hale, the author of Mary had a Little Lamb, advocated for an annual day of Thanksgiving, and during the Civil War while looking for a way to bring the nation together, President Abraham Lincoln consulted with Ms. Hale prior to issuing the Thanksgiving Proclamation that declared the last Thursday of November (based on Washington’s date) as a national holiday.
75 years later, in 1939 retailers begged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to change Thanksgiving to the second to the last Thursday of the month, therefore giving people more shopping days before Christmas. He did so, but the confusion didn’t settle well with the county. Calendars were off, schools vacations had to be rescheduled, and yes, even football games reorganized. Many believed the reason of the date change was not a fitting cause and controversy split the nation. 23 states agreed to change the date, and 23 states refused. Colorado and Texas chose to celebrate both days. Even though businesses reported no real direct change in shopping, the two Thanksgivings (with states choosing which to observe) continued until 1941 when congress passed a law declaring Thanksgiving as a national holiday that would occur on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
The term Black Friday started in Philadelphia due to the heavy pedestrian and automobile traffic that always occurred the day after Thanksgiving sometime around the early 1960’s and the term spread across the nation during the mid-seventies. Later, the alternate explanation about retailers finally turning a profit on that day came about. Opening early, at 6:00 AM or so was popular for many years, and in the 2000’s this had increased to 3:00 and 4:00 AM and then midnight. And as you know, the past two years it began to include stores opening on Thanksgiving evening and/or day.
So, there you have it.