Thanksgiving dates in a nutshell
April 29, 1607: Colonists at Cape Henry, Va., celebrate a thanksgiving. Aug. 9, 1607: Settlers at Popham, Maine, celebrate thanksgiving. 1619: Thanksgiving declared an annual holiday at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. This would have been a holiday declared by members of the Church of England. Puritans and the more radical separatists (or Saints, as they would have referred to themselves) rejected such an annual holiday, saying it usurped the sacredness of the Sabbath -- or the Lord's Day. 1621: The Pilgrims of Plymouth celebrate their first harvest festival in the New World, now commonly regarded as the ``First Thanksgiving.'' 1623: The Pilgrims of Plymouth celebrate what they would call their first day of thanksgiving. To the Pilgrims, a day of thanksgiving was a highly religious day, marked by attendance at church, prayers, and probably fasting. In contrast, they considered a harvest festival to be a leisure activity -- perhaps as much as three days devoted to feasting and games. 1777: The first national day of thanksgiving is declared by the Continental Congress in the hope that states will refrain from declaring their own, regional thanksgiving celebrations on different days. 1789: President George Washington issues a proclamation of a nationwide day of thanksgiving, specifying that it should be a day of prayer and of giving thanks to God. 1863: President Abraham Lincoln formally establishes a national holiday of Thanksgiving, designating the last Thursday of November as the day. 1939: Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaims Thanksgiving Day to be the fourth Thursday in November. 1941: Congress adopts a joint resolution declaring the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day.