Why not move Thanksgiving permanently?

Because of the pandemic, there have been calls for people to not get together for the traditional family and friends gathering at the Thanksgiving holiday, held on the fourth Thursday of November. Such gatherings can be a major cause of virus spread and since old people are often involved, this could be hazardous. People are also being urged to not travel, but today comes news that Sunday saw the highest number of air travelers since March, suggesting that many people are ignoring that advice,

One suggestion that has been made is to postpone this year’s Thanksgiving to (say) next July when the pandemic might be more under control. This might be a good opportunity renew my long-standing plea to shift Thanksgiving permanently to the last Thursday in October because that makes a lot more sense. There is a long drought of holidays between Labor Day and Christmas and a late October holiday would fall nicely in the middle. It would also enable a more convenient fall break for students in schools and colleges. Also the weather would be much better. Right now, it is not uncommon for a massive snowstorm to hit during the Thanksgiving weekend, snarling traffic, shutting down flights, and stranding travelers all over the place.

There is nothing special about the current date that was fixed in 1941 by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a compromise with those in Congress and business who wanted a day that was close enough to Christmas to spur thoughts of holiday shopping but not too close that there were not enough days to do so. Before that, Lincoln had decreed in 1863 that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November but that meant that it would sometimes fall on November 30th, and businesses felt that that gave them too few days. Nowadays, with online shopping and relentless year-round marketing to people, this consideration may not be such a factor for businesses and they may not oppose the shift to the end of October.

What will be a major obstacle is people’s dogged reluctance to change a practice that they have got accustomed to simply because is is ‘tradition’, even if there really is no real reason to cling to it. But there is no doubt that suggestions like mine will be used to add a phony ‘war on Thanksgiving’ claim to add to the phony ‘war on Christmas’.

I will be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas alone at home this year, a first for me. Being someone who is comfortable with solitude and does not pay any attention to events like birthdays and other ‘special days’, this does not bother me in the least. Even if I were a big fan of celebratory events, foregoing them for a year to help slow the spread of a pandemic seems like a really minor sacrifice, hardly a hardship to complain about.


  1. larpar says

    “…a late October holiday…” -- Like Halloween.
    How about early October, like Canada.
    Or we could leave it alone.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … shift Thanksgiving permanently to the last Thursday in October …

    “Trick or … Turkey?”

  3. says

    Chinese New Year is the world’s largest annual mass migration of human beings. Did you hear how many millions of people travelled around China last February, spreading COVID-19 as they travelled city to city?

    They didn’t. Beijing ordered everyone to stay home, not to travel. I don’t believe China’s numbers, but the lockdown prevent a mass spread exactly at the time when it was getting out of control.

    Forget mass spreading events, “thanksgiving” is going to need new terminology. This is why I still think 500,000 US dead by new year is possible.

  4. bmiller says

    No gatherings with family and friends for me this year. 🙁 But I will travel a short distance…only via my personal car to do some bicycling…by myself. So, no contacts with other people. The one advantage of a La Nina Year (other than water rationing and massive fires next summer) is very nice late fall/ early winter bicycling weather. I love the California climate!

  5. bmiller says

    I HAVE TO RIDE. My landlady keeps FEEDING ME. 🙂 🙁 And I am already on the verge of the Big D, so ferocious bicycling is my only hope.

  6. Tadas says

    Spreading a deadly disease to a population whose immune system is ill-prepared to fight it. Our nation has clearly not learned anything from our painful past this Thanksgiving.

  7. mnb0 says

    Simply don’t participate. I even haven’t celebrated my birthday for a few decades (with one or two exceptions because I felt like).

  8. jenorafeuer says

    I mean, Canada’s Thanksgiving is in early/mid October.

    That’s because, when you get right down to it, fundamentally Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, and the first frost tends to happen earlier up here.

  9. sonofrojblake says

    While you’re at it, why not move Christmas?

    Is uncontroversial to observe that talking it as a given that jesus was born, we can be certain it was in 0 AD, or 1 AD, or whatever, and we can be further certain it wasn’t in the middle of bloody winter, or there’d have been no shepherds out watching their flocks by night for the angels to appear to with the fake… er, sorry, “good” news.

    Christians hijacked the pagan solstice celebration. Why not move it to August?

  10. John Morales says


    Why not move it [Christmas] to August?

    Because that’s the middle of winter!

  11. Ridana says

    July? Nobody wants to eat turkey and stuffing and potatoes and all that winter comfort food in July. That’s burgers and dogs season.

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