Thanksgiving holiday became official during the Civil War

My wife says that Thanksgiving has been an annual event since the Pilgrims first got together back in the day. But I think it was something our nation officially put together later as a proper holiday. Which one of us birds is right?

— T. S., Medford

We don't want to ruffle any feathers in your house, but you end up with the big part of the wishbone on this one, T.S.

However, you need to give your wife credit for noting the first one was in 1621. Yes, T.S., she told you the date but you weren't listening.

As usual, she reports.

Back to turkey day. Historians write that the first one was probably a bit lean when it came to cuisine. You wouldn't have seen a fat turkey. But there was probably some venison and squash.

Although late autumn is traditionally a time when cultures do stop to give thanks, our forefathers were a little slow to create a national holiday for the tradition. While the country did celebrate a fall thanksgiving right after the Revolutionary War, an official Thanksgiving Day wasn't created until the Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln declared in 1863 that the last Thursday of November would be Thanksgiving Day, making turkey day a national holiday for the first time.

The timing was further fine-tuned by Congress in 1941 when it decreed that Thanksgiving would be held on the fourth Thursday of November.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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