On Thursday, November 26, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for “a day of public thanksgiving & prayer.” Beginning in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to recognize the last Thursday of November as “a day of Thanksgiving.” A few years later in 1870, Congress followed suit by passing legislation making Thanksgiving (along with Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Independence Day) a national holiday.
However, unlike the other holidays in the bill, the President had the discretion to set the date for Thanksgiving. With few exceptions, each President until Franklin D. Roosevelt followed Lincoln’s lead by declaring the last Thursday of November a national day of thanks. President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday of November to extend the Christmas shopping season in order to help businesses still suffering from the lingering effects of the Great Depression. Despite widespread criticism from many who had grown accustomed to the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving later in November, the President moved up the holiday again in 1940.
On January 3, 1941, Representative Earl Michener of Michigan introduced House Joint Resolution 41 to set the last Thursday of November for the Thanksgiving holiday. “The rather universal sentiment seems to be that we should return to the old custom of the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day,” said Joseph O’Hara of Minnesota, since “not only [does it honor] a custom as old as our national history but it will mean a restoring of order to what has been confusion to many who have to deal with this problem as a holiday season.” The House eventually passed Michener’s bill on October 6, 1941, and President Roosevelt signed it into law late that December, to take effect the following year.
So, as must be American custom, even Thanksgiving has some political drama complete with lobbyists affecting the decisions. However, Thanksgiving has survived & has served to kick off the holidays ever since.
It remains an opportunity for us to give thanks for the blessings we have. In spite of a negative mkt this year, there are blessings. The economy has held up quite well & the jobs data is still strong. You can see this in the chart today that looks at yoy SPX, nominal GDP & unemployment (inverted). You can look back thru time & see that not every negative mkt has resulted in a recession. Not even every double digit loss. In fact, in the 70s/80s, even when the big negative year did predict a recession, nominal GDP stayed positive over that time. It wasn't the best of times but there was something to give thanks about.
We do see that unemployment move higher at & during recessions. This will be something we want to watch to know when we are there. For now, as we spend time with family & friends, take some time away from the worries of the mkt to be thankful for the blessings you have.
Stay Vigilant & Happy Thanksgiving