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The date of the Thanksgiving holiday has changed. George Washington first proclaimed a “Day of Public Thanksgiving” to be observed on November 28, 1782, the last Thursday of November. Other presidents also declared days of thanksgiving, but dates for the celebration ranged from the third Thursday of November to the fourth or the last Thursday. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the day to be the last Thursday. States stuck to that guideline until 1939, when President Franklin Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday (there were five Thursdays in November that year) to expand the Christmas shopping season and help bring the country out of the Depression. It caused a big political argument; half the country celebrated on the fourth Thursday, the others on the last Thursday. Finally, on December 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed a bill making the fourth Thursday in November the date for the Thanksgiving Day observance federal law. It’s still the legal date for a traditional turkey dinner and a big New York City parade.

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