Turkey Day Legalities

The US celebrates Thanksgiving today – a federal holiday that’s had many iterations as its made its way to our present day annual turkey day fest.

Of course, we all learned in grade school the origin story of the tradition, in which the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation and local Native American tribes celebrated and gave thanks to a bountiful harvest in 1621. More than a century later in 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation , assigning Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day in which the nation should give thanks for:

[…] the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted—for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us. [and] To render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.

Such sentiments were celebrated sporadically until another proclamation was issued in October of 1863 by President Lincoln which formally declared a national day of Thanksgiving as a federal holiday, to be observed annually on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt issued yet another proclamation changing the date of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday of that month, to accommodate for, among other things, those years when the month has five Thursdays. While there ensued some back and forth between the two US Houses of Congress and the states as to if this should be the case, the date of celebration was finally settled as the fourth Thursday of November and a joint resolution of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1941.

And so we celebrate this national holiday, thankful for our wonderful team and the privilege of working with great clients and serving the public by making all our laws free!

All of us at Justia wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving!