❔ Were you taught in school the Pilgrims stared Thanksgiving?

❔ What if we told you that was wrong?

❔ Keep reading to learn how Thanksgiving really started in New Jersey


You probably learned in kindergarten that Thanksgiving had its origins with the Pilgrims and Native Americans feasting together at the Plymouth Colony in 1621.

Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
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That is generally accepted as the first Thanksgiving; however Thanksgiving was really only celebrated twice again in the next 100 years.

The Thanksgiving holiday we now enjoy actually has its origins in the Garden State thanks to a congressman from New Jersey.

Thanksgiving's New Jersey origins

America was new, having just defeated the British in the war for our independence.

It was 1789 when New Jersey Congressional Representative Elias Boudinot proposed a day of public thanksgiving to then-President George Washington.

His idea was to celebrate our newly created constitution.

Elias Boudinot Public Domain
Elias Boudinot
Public Domain
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Washington liked the idea.

Many in Congress did not.

Some argued it was not the business of the federal government to order people to give thanks. Others didn't like the religious connotations of the holiday.

Southern lawmakers resented a Northern states holiday being forced upon them.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson absolutely hated the idea of "Thanksgiving," calling it a “monarchical practice."

George Washington
President George Washington loved the idea of a National Day of Thanks.
Getty Images
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There ought to be a law

Despite the opposition, on October 3rd of 1789, President Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving be held.

However, Washington did not make it an order of law. It was merely recommended to the states and left up to individual legislatures to determine if they would celebrate the day and, if so, when.

Thomas Jefferson Public Domain
Thomas Jefferson
Public Domain
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For most of the next century, Thanksgiving remained largely a holiday celebrated only by Northeastern states.

New Jersey Governor William Livingston was among the first to enthusiastically endorsed the celebrating Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was not yet a national holiday, and that meant different states celebrated at different times and the dates often changed.

New Jersey celebrated first in September, but also held Thanksgiving celebrations in November, April and once even on the 4th of July.

Finally, some consistency. Sort of.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

Then in 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt changed it again, now to be celebrated on the third Thursday of November.

President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the third Thursday of November. Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
President Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the third Thursday of November.
Canva/Townsquare Media illustration
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It was ultimately still up to individual states to celebrate or not, and 18-states refused to comply.

Now we got it

Congress finally ratified a measure to make Thanksgiving an official Federal Holiday in 1941 on the fourth Thursday in November.

Thanksgiving dinner
shironosov ThinkStock
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But none of that would have been possible if not for an idea that originated in New Jersey.

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