Last year, a lot of us celebrated quarantine Thanksgiving a little differently. Maybe you logged on to a video conferencing platform to celebrate with family and friends from a distance or set up an outdoor dining experience for your pod. Or maybe you enjoyed a smaller-scale celebration. Whatever your 2020 Thanksgiving looked like, many of us are especially thankful to gather with our nearest and dearest for Thanksgiving 2021 for a celebration that will feel that much more special. Whether you’re hosting the biggest food holiday of the year or thinking about letting a professional cook the feast, early planning (especially this year) can keep you from calendar-related panic as the day approaches.
So, when is Thanksgiving in 2021? If you find yourself checking the calendar every year and worrying about your memory, don’t worry – you’re not losing it. Chalk it up to a date that moves around from year to year. Last year, it was November 26, and this year it falls on the 25th, so we lose another day of prep time.
This year, Thanksgiving is on November 25, 2021.
Why does Thanksgiving always fall on the fourth Thursday of November?
We have a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific writer with a real love of the day to thank for the existence of the national holiday in the first place. Hale, who also coined “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” wrote newspaper editorials and letters to governors, presidents and other politicians over the span of 36 years (yes, you read that right) lobbying for them to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her persistent campaign earned her the well-deserved title, “The mother of Thanksgiving.”
In 1863, all of that hard work finally paid off. Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as a national day to ask God to, “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation” as well as give thanks for the Union Army win at Gettysburg. Hale’s idea wasn’t totally unprecedented, either. Historians believe that Lincoln chose that particular day because the first national day of gratitude — called for by George Washington to mark the nation’s triumph in The Revolutionary War —was on Thursday, November 26, 1789. James Madison and John Adams had also designated similar days of thanks, but it wasn’t until Lincoln that it became a national holiday.
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday for a purely economic reason. He hoped that would allow for more shopping time between turkey day and Christmas, to help boost retail sales during the Great Depression. But the decision was hugely unpopular with Americans, many of whom even derided it as “Franksgiving.” He caved to the pressure and in 1941, changed it back to the last Thursday in November. Nobody has tried messing with the timing again, and we’ve celebrated it that day ever since.