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]

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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When Does a President’s Term Officially End?

President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, leave the White House after President Ronald Reagan's inauguration ceremony in 1981.
President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, leave the White House after President Ronald Reagan's inauguration ceremony in 1981.
Clawson, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You may be aware that newly elected U.S. presidents take office sometime in January—maybe you even know the inauguration occurs on January 20, specifically. What you might not realize is that it’s technically illegal for a president who’s leaving office to continue serving after that date. As the Twentieth Amendment states, “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January … and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”

In other words, a presidential term is exactly four years long, down to the hour. In the three cases where January 20 fell on a Sunday (since the 20th Amendment went into effect), the president took the oath of office in a private ceremony on that day, and the public inauguration was held the following day.

Though the four-year term limit has been in the Constitution from the very beginning, January 20 wasn’t always the start and end date. Until 1933, it was March 4. After the Constitutional Convention adopted the Constitution in September 1788, the old government—the Confederation Congress—ceased operations on March 4, 1789 and the Congress of the United States started running things. Getting up to speed took a little longer than expected, and George Washington didn’t end up getting sworn in until April 30. As Binghamton University history professor and provost Donald Nieman writes for The Conversation, March 4 became the official Inauguration Day starting with Washington’s second term.

A painting of George Washington's second inauguration on March 4, 1793, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.The Foundation Press, Inc., Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

By the early 20th century, the long delay between officials winning an election and actually starting the job was causing issues—mostly in Congress. Members of Congress were elected in November, but their first session didn’t start until the following December, a whole 13 months later. Furthermore, their second session, which started the December after that, could only last until their terms ended on March 4. So, in the 1930s, Congress passed the 20th Amendment, declaring that congressional terms would begin and end on January 3, about two months after the election.

The president’s inauguration day got shifted to January, too, and the amendment also explained what would happen if a president hadn’t been chosen by that date. The sitting president wouldn’t just stay in office by default—instead, Congress could either appoint someone to serve in the interim, or it could decide on another way to select someone. That person would serve “until a President or Vice president shall have qualified.” Since that’s never happened before, we don’t know exactly what the process would look like.

As for what the president actually does during their last days in office, it’s not all long lunches and lazy walks around the well-kept White House grounds. There are usually plenty of eleventh-hour pardons to make, and it’s tradition for the president to pen a letter to their successor. President Barack Obama also sent a heartfelt email to his whole White House staff, thanking them for their years of support and encouraging them to continue working to uphold democracy.

[h/t The Conversation]