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Everyone knows Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday of November. For a few years, that changed

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt sparked controversy about when the holiday should be celebrated.

TAMPA, Fla. — Thanksgiving has typically fallen on the last Thursday of November every year. However, in 1939, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to move the day up by a week.

According to the House of Representatives History, Art and Archives, Thanksgiving wasn’t a fixed holiday when Roosevelt was president. He would later declare the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanks.

Except, in 1939, before the holiday was official, Roosevelt decided to move the sacred day up a week. The reason? The archives say Roosevelt was trying to extend the holiday shopping season to help businesses recover from the lingering effects of the Great Depression.

However, a lot of people did not want their Thanksgiving tampered with. According to the FDR Library, the move was so controversial that letters poured into the White House disputing the change. This led to a split celebration with some choosing to celebrate the traditional date, and others going along with “Franksgiving,” a phrase coined by critics of the switch.

Credit: FDR Library
A letter written to FDR after Thanksgiving was moved.

One letter, written by Shelby Bennett, asked Roosevelt to change other days of the week since he changed Thanksgiving.

“Now, there are some things that I would like done and would appreciate your approval: Have Sunday changed to Wednesday; have Monday’s to be Christmas; have it strictly against the Will of God to work on Tuesday,” the letter read.

Credit: FDR Library
A satirical letter asks Roosevelt to change the days of the week after Thanksgiving was moved.

While some businesses were happy with the extra week of shopping, some small businesses complained they would lose business to large stores, the FDR Library says. A particular type of business, calendar making, was hit especially hard. Because they had already printed calendars years in advance, the holiday switch meant the calendars were out of date.

Stores weren’t the only ones affected. Letters poured in about the disruption of football games, class schedules, school closings and a whole lot more. 

Roosevelt would continue to move the holiday up in 1940 and 1941, eventually causing lawmakers to take action. According to the archives, on Jan. 3, 1941, Representative Earl Michener of Michigan introduced a resolution to set the last Thursday of November as the official date of Thanksgiving. It would take eight months for the bill to pass, but Roosevelt signed the bill into law that December. It went into effect the following year, 1942. 

Now, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the way it was intended to be.