The Reason Why Thanksgiving Is on the Fourth Thursday in November

golibtolibov/iStock via Getty Images
golibtolibov/iStock via Getty Images

Almost 170 years after the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe feasted together for the first unofficial Thanksgiving in 1621, the U.S. federal government decided to make it official. So on October 3, 1789, President George Washington declared that the nation would celebrate a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” on November 26 that year.

While November 26, 1789, happened to fall on a Thursday, subsequent proclamations didn’t standardize that practice—according to the National Archives, other presidents chose different days and even months for the food-filled harvest holiday. Then, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that Thanksgiving would be celebrated every year on the last Thursday in November.

Although we don’t know exactly why Washington originally chose Thursday, there are a couple theories. The Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that Thursday became the tradition early on because it was just far enough from the weekend that it wouldn’t overlap with the Sabbath, which many colonists observed at the time. It was also common for New England ministers to give religious lectures on Thursday afternoons, so it’s possible that the reflective, prayerful nature of Thanksgiving tied in nicely with the regularly scheduled pious programming.

Either way, the nation gave thanks around the table every last Thursday of November until 1939, when Thanksgiving fell on the very last day of November. Still recovering from the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraged by retailers, decided it would benefit the economy if Thanksgiving was celebrated a week earlier, thus lengthening the holiday shopping season.

In a presidential proclamation, he shifted it to the second-to-last Thursday of November, but only 32 states agreed with him—so from 1939 to 1941, America had two Thanksgivings, depending on where you were in the country.

In 1941, Congress put an end to the chaos with a joint resolution declaring that the entire nation would celebrate Thanksgiving on just one day. Though the House of Representatives chose the last Thursday in the original document, they ultimately conceded when the Senate submitted an amendment choosing the fourth Thursday instead (thus accounting for the years when November has five weeks). President Roosevelt signed it on December 26, 1941, much to the delight of retailers everywhere.

Curious about how other Thanksgiving traditions came to be? Discover their origins here.

[h/t The Old Farmer’s Almanac]

Koalas Aren’t Bears, So Why Do People Call Them ‘Koala Bears’?

Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images
Arnaud_Martinez/iStock via Getty Images

If you—with no prior knowledge of koalas or pouched animals in general—spotted a tree-climbing, leaf-munching, fur-covered creature in the wild, you might assume it was a small bear. That’s essentially what happened in the 18th century, and it’s the reason we still call koalas “bears” today, even when we know better.

In the late 1700s, English-speaking settlers happened upon a small animal in Australia that looked like a small, gray bear with a pouch. It was soon given the scientific name Phascolarctos cinereus, which is derived from Greek words meaning “ash-gray pouched bear.” Essentially, naturalists had named the unknown animal based on its appearance and behavior, and people didn’t realize until later that the presence of a pouch is a dead giveaway that an animal is definitely not a bear.

According to Live Science, koalas and bears both belong to the same class, Mammalia (i.e. they’re mammals). Then their taxonomic branches diverge: koalas belong to an infraclass called Marsupialia. Marsupials, unlike bears, give birth to their offspring when they’re still underdeveloped, and then carry them around in pouches. Even if koalas look just as cuddly as bear cubs, they’re much more closely related to other marsupials like kangaroos and wombats.

Over time, people adopted a name that the Aboriginal Darug people in Australia used for the animal, koala.

But bear still stuck as a modifier, and scientists never went back and replaced arctos (from arktos, Greek for bear) in its genus Phascolarctos with something more accurate. So, technically speaking, koalas are still called bears, even by scientists.

Wondering how you can help the lovable non-bears survive Australia’s wildfires? Here are 12 ideas.

[h/t Live Science]

The Reason Why Button-Down Shirts Have Loops On the Back

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

The apparel industry has presented a number of intriguing mysteries over the years. We’ve previously covered why clothes shrink in the wash, deciphered the laundry care tags on clothes, and figured out why shorts cost as much as pants. But one enduring puzzle persists: What’s with that weird loop on the back of button-down shirts?

The loop, which is found on many dress shirts for both men and women, is a small piece of fabric that typically occupies the space between the shoulder blades, where the yoke (upper back) of the shirt meets the pleat. While it can be an excellent way to annoy someone by tugging on it, history tells us it originally had a much more pragmatic function. The loops first became popular among naval sailors, who didn’t typically have much closet or storage space available for their uniforms. To make putting away and drying their shirts easier, the loops were included so they could be hung from a hook.

The loops didn’t remain exclusive to the Navy, however. In the 1960s, clothing manufacturer GANT added what became known as a locker loop to their dress shirts so their customers—frequently Ivy League college students—could hang the shirts in their lockers without them getting wrinkled. (The loop was originally placed on the back of the collar.) Later, students repurposed the loops to communicate their relationship status. If a man’s loop was missing, it meant he was dating someone. Women adopted an apparel-related signal, too: wearing their boyfriend’s scarf to indicate they were taken.

Particularly enthusiastic partners would rip the loop off spontaneously, which became a bit of a trend in the ‘60s. At the time, women who had crushes wearing Moss brand shirts complained that their loops were so strong and secure that they couldn’t be torn off.

For people who wanted to have a loop without ruining a shirt, one mail-order company offered to send just the loops to people in the mail.

You can still find the loops on shirts today, though they don't appear to have any social significance. Should you find one that's torn, it's probably due to wear, not someone's relationship status.