November 29: The Franksgiving Controversy

FranksgivingAs you know, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. However, for decades, Thanksgiving was not held specifically on the fourth Thursday, but the last Thursday of the month, which meant that every so often, the holiday was held on November’s fifth Thursday. It was on this day in 1956 that part of America celebrated Thanksgiving on the fifth Thursday of November for the final time.

Okay, I can hear you thinking that’s all very well and good, but why is this interesting? Well, when President Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1939 that Thanksgiving would henceforth be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, there was a lot of controversy. You see, that year Thanksgiving was going to fall on November 30, and American retailers (who along with the rest of the country had just started to bounce back from the Great Depression) were concerned that the late Thanksgiving would affect Christmas sales. It’s hard to believe now, but 75 years ago it was considered uncouth for businesses to display Christmas decorations or promote Christmas sales before Thanksgiving Day.

That year, on advice from Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt announced that Thanksgiving would not be on November 30, but on November 23. Naturally, there were some complaints. Atlantic City mayor Thomas Taggart dubbed the November 23 Thanksgiving “Franksgiving.” Alf Landen, the Republican who lost to FDR in the 1938 election, said “If the change has any merit at all, more time should have been taken working it out… instead of springing it upon an unprepared country with the omnipotence of a Hitler.” If you learn anything from this blog, I hope it’s that politicians comparing American presidents to Herr Hitler is a tradition that predates World War II.

So, that year, and in several subsequent years that featured a November with five Thursdays, America’s Thanksgiving celebrations were split along party lines. States that had primarily Democratic controlled governments celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday (i. e. November 23, 1939), while those with Republican governments generally celebrated it on the fifth Thursday (i. e. November 30, 1939). A few states decided to not get involved in the controversy and celebrated both days as official holidays. After World Ward II, Congress decided to officially declare the fourth Thursday of November Thanksgiving, and for the most part the states went along with it…except for Texas, of course. Texas held on to the notion of celebrating Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month until November 29, 1956. After that year, the Lone Star State decided to get on the same page as the rest of the nation and began celebrating Turkey Day on the fourth Thursday and has continued to do so ever since.

While you dine on Thanksgiving leftovers this weekend, why not enjoy a sufficiently festive cocktail? The Pumpkin Spiced Martini comes to us from Los Angeles’ Fig & Olive restaurant. It’s a delicious way to spice up your seventh helping of turkey.

Pumpkin Spiced Martini

  • 1 1/2 ounce Vanilla Infused Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Applejack
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1 bar spoon pumpkin butter

Rim a chilled martini glass with crushed graham crackers by dipping it in maple syrup and then dunking in the crumbs. Then shake all ingredients with ice and strain into the graham cracker rimmed cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: Two of the 19th century’s wittiest writers.

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