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When Thanksgiving Day became a yearly event in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the holiday on the last Thursday in November -- and that's where it stayed for the next 75 years.
But, occasionally, as in 2007, November has five Thursdays. The year 1939 was one of the occasions. At that time, people did not begin Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving. So, concerned about the impact of a shortened holiday shopping period in a nation trying to work its way out of the great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday of November, the 23rd, to be Thanksgiving Day in 1939.
Many people protested the change as a an affront to tradition, and Nov. 30 (the last, and fifth, Tuesday) was declared to be the official Thanksgiving Day in a number of states.
So 1939 was a year with two Thanksgiving Days.
The next two years featured "normal" Novembers, each with four Thursdays, so the confusion did not arise again. In December of 1941, Congress passed a law permanently setting Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday in November.
By the way: Nobody knows the exact dates of the three-day Plymouth Plantation celebration that became known as the first Thanksgiving. Historians say it was sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov. 9 in 1621, and most probably during October, but can't be more precise than that.
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