Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year in America. From family and friends to pumpkin pie and plenty of helpings of turkey, what’s not to love? Thanksgiving also has a rich history, full of unique and sometimes wacky regulations. Here are a few fun Thanksgiving laws you might not know.
The Turkey Pardon
Let’s start with one of the better-known Thanksgiving laws out there – the pardoning of a turkey. Every year the president of the United States is presented with a live turkey as a gift, which he then promptly pardons. While this may seem like a time-honored tradition dating back decades, if not centuries, it isn’t that old in its current form. The first Thanksgiving turkey was officially spared by President Kennedy, although Abraham Lincoln saved the life of Christmas turkey which his son had taken a liking to in 1865. The act of a formal pardoning, however, has only been done since 1989, when President George H.W. Bush held a ceremony in the Rose Garden.
Thanksgiving’s Date Was Only Formally Established in 1941
Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of November and has been so since the days of the Pilgrims, right? Wrong. The first Thanksgiving as a national celebration was on November 26, 1789 – a Tuesday. George Washington proclaimed it as a day of thanksgiving for the newly signed United States Constitution. It wasn’t until years later in 1863 when Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise.”
This last Thursday, however, caused some issues. In 1939 and 1940, President Roosevelt changed the holiday to the third Thursday, to allow for more shopping to take place, to boost the depressed economy. It was only in 1941 that Congress put an end to the shifting dates, enshrining the holiday on the fourth Thursday as we know it today.
Thou Shalt Not Shop
Black Friday has become almost as big of a tradition as Thanksgiving itself. So much so, that now stores have started opening their doors for eager shoppers on the holiday itself! Unfortunately for those looking for deals, however, several states don’t allow the business to be open on Thanksgiving. In Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, for example, colonial-era “blue laws” prohibit many stores form being open on Thanksgiving. These laws were enacted centuries ago to encourage church attendance on Sundays and public holidays, and many remain in effect to the present day.
The Awesome Power of Thanksgiving (Literally)
Thanksgiving is a powerful and meaningful time where Americans come together and give thanks for all the blessings we have. In North Carolina and Minnesota, however, the power of Thanksgiving has a whole different meaning. Both states have enacted legislation mandating that utility plants use some of the turkey waste created on farms to generate some of the power in their plants. Talk about Thanksgiving getting you all fired up!
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