That eventful year was 1939. Tough times hung over all Americans, for the country was being held tightly by left-over grips of the Great Depression. With the German invasion of Poland, the U.S. was tottering fearfully over the brink of a major global war that had been cast upon the entire world.
On the third Thursday in November, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke, by way of radio and wished all traditional-minded Americans a happy Thanksgiving. Who said…what? Why, this unthinkable, third Thursday change?
Not so fast, Mr. President. An overwhelming outburst of public upheavals followed protesting the president’s decision. Angry letters, by the thousands, flooded the White House.
In yonder years, this traditional holiday had always fallen on the last Thursday in November. Always! Never, never the third Thursday. Seldom, had the president’s decision become more disagreeable in the eyes of his public Americans.
Abraham Lincoln had focused attention on a need to observe a national holiday for thanksgiving to God for the nation’s bountiful blessings.
“It has seemed to me,” President Lincoln had aptly stated during 1863, “fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens.“
So, why then had President Roosevelt made his unwavering decision?
Lay the greedy culprit upon the nation’s stalwart business leaders. Their fear and anxiety over lost income and revenue, due to fewer shopping days left between Thanksgiving and Christmas carried heavy weight.
To the president, pleasing business leaders seemed avid reasons enough to advance the Thanksgiving holiday up one week, thus allowing an extra week for Christmas spending.
Two years later the president reconsidered and began a search for solutions fitting the public’s approval.
In 1941, he signed a joint resolution and Congress passed legislation for the official return of Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November, the same as President Lincoln had first declared.
However, during that unsettling, war-hovering year in 1939, President and Mrs. Roosevelt celebrated their untraditional Thanksgiving Day on the third Thursday in November.
Among friends and families in their Warm Springs hide-away, the president carved the turkey himself. Being on one of his countless economy binges, he was careful that none of the meat should be wasted.
Since his meticulous carving took longer, Mrs. Roosevelt had provided an additional carved bird to speed his efforts along.
Few Americans had thought about President Franklin D. Roosevelt being an invalid.
Stricken with disabling polio at the youthful age of thirty-nine, he muscled strength and energy together with a powerful determination dedicated to hard work.
The president communicated courageous confidence in his memorable radio fireside chats and did much to help relieve the nation of their depression-era anxieties.
During wartime and peacetime, President Franklin Roosevelt convinced Americans that “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
As we commemorate this season of thanksgiving, may we be grateful for our nation’s past, a shinning light set high upon a hill, a nation truly blessed by a merciful God with plenteous liberties.
May we never take for granted, those liberties; they have not come without sacrificial cost.
With thankfulness, we honor courageous men and women serving in our military.
May God continue his watchful care over our nation.