My annual Thanksgiving appeal

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US, an occasion when family and friends get together to go shopping and fight with other people to get the best bargains. No seriously, at its best, Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, free from commercializing and just spent socializing. In fact, it has become my favorite holiday for reasons given here. (This year we received a Happy Thanksgiving card, which I view as an ominous sign of attempts to commercialize this holiday as well. It was from a firm we deal with and I hope that the practice does not spread.)

It is also my day to urge that we join the Canadians and move the date to the end of October. The main reason is that the end of November is a period of uncertain weather and, like this year, one can have a winter storm that cancels flights and makes driving treacherous, snarling traffic on one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Of course, my proposal will not be accepted because the present date has now become firmly anchored to the start of the Christmas shopping season. In fact the choice of the present day (the fourth Thursday in November) was a compromise negotiated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress. Abraham Lincoln had decreed in 1863 that Thanksgiving be celebrated on the last Thursday. But that meant that in some years, the holiday ended up on November 30, thus making the shopping period too short. Roosevelt wanted to make it the third Thursday but Congress objected and the compromise reached in 1941 was the fourth.

But if the trend to earlier and earlier shop openings (as shown in this graph from Bluegal aka Fran) suggests, then I may actually end up achieving my objective.

retailers war on thanksgiving


  1. machintelligence says

    Heck, start it the day after Halloween for all I care. Christmas stuff starts showing up then anyway.
    Also note that the fashion seasons are now seriously out of sync with the real seasons, since Spring clothing shows up right after Christmas. (I guess they need something to advertise.)

  2. mnb0 says

    “my proposal will not be accepted ….”
    Don’t be too desperate. The Christmas shopping season in The Netherlands only begins at December 6th. Before we have the Sinterklaas shopping season, which lasts three weeks. The preparations for Sinterklaas shopping season already begins mid October though, shortly interrupted by Saint Martin’s Day of November 11th. As soon as commerce realizes that it can stretch the shopping season with several weeks if Thanksgiving is at the end of October you will have it your way. If you’re gonna like it is another question.

  3. wtfwhateverd00d says

    The two great secular holidays, not overly nationalistic holidays, are Halloween and Thanksgiving.

    Your proposal would merge the traditional Thanksgiving feast with the traditional Halloween bloodletting.


  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Going back to your original article, while I do love the Fourth of July for its picnicking and yeah, the earth shattering kabooms, I truly enjoy Thanksgiving for the visits with relatives and friends who may have traveled long distances, as well as the stuffing and cranberry sauce, the traditional onion rings and green beans, and the dark meat and gravy.

    But I do think Thanksgiving is special in that it’s a celebration of two diverse groups figuring out how to survive peacefully together and sitting down and breaking bread together.

    I mean, that’s a damn awesome message (which was famously turned into a series of TV shows and movies that people still love and quote from today.)

    You are in luck though, more and more Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the start of Christmas shopping. That would be Halloween. :/

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