Thanksgiving Becomes a National Holiday


Thanksgiving Becomes a National Holiday
by Mary Emma Allen
Mary Emma Allen

Even though we think of the first Thanksgiving as taking place in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, this celebration didn't become an official holiday until many years later.. A woman from the State of New Hampshire was responsible for this recognition.

Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of "Godey's Lady's Book," decided that Thanksgiving should become a national holiday. She initiated a campaign to have a day in the late fall set aside for us to give thanks for our harvest and many blessings.

From 1846 to 1863, she wrote letters to presidents, governors, and any influential people she could think of. Many editorials appeared in her magazine, urging recognition of this celebration as a holiday.

Lincoln Listens to Her

The man who finally listened to Mrs. Hale was President Abraham Lincoln. He decided that a day of thanksgiving in the autumn also might help create harmony in the nation midst the Civil War.

So in 1863, he declared that Thanksgiving Day would be the last Thursday in November. At Mrs. Hale's insistence, he also designated that day as Thanksgiving the following year. The holiday has been celebrated ever since.

Congress Officially Sets Holiday

In 1941, Congress passed a resolution which changed Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday of the month. Since then, the fourth Thursday, which sometimes is the last one, has officially been Thanksgiving.

Our thanks goes to Sarah Josepha Hale for her determination to have an officially designated holiday for us to pause and give thanks for our many blessings.

(c) 2001 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 30 years and has
compiled a family cookbook. She's currently compiling a cookbook/story book, "Tales From a Country Kitchen." Visit her web site for more cooking articles:; e-mail:

This article provided by the Family Content Archives at:

Home Page -







"The man who finally listened to Mrs. Hale was President Abraham Lincoln"


(c) 2003 Caton Family

Thanksgiving Becomes a National Holiday