In the Tuesday Wall Street Journal, Professor Alan Blinder wrote of his puzzlement at the very slow growth of productivity in the last three years. There is really no mystery. The rate of growth of investment in...
- The Tax Policy Blog
- Moving Thanksgiving Makes As Much Sense as Sales Tax Holi...
Moving Thanksgiving Makes As Much Sense as Sales Tax Holidays
Thanksgiving as an American tradition of course dates back to 1641, when the Pilgrims celebrated a bountiful harvest from individual farming after nearing starving to death under collective farming. President George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day for October 3, 1789, and such proclamations occurred sporadically until President Lincoln set an annual Thanksgiving holiday for the last Thursday in November, beginning in 1863. It was celebrated as such every year by tradition until 1941, when the holiday was set in federal law.
Well not quite every year. In 1939, with Thanksgiving set to occur on November 30, the National Retail Dry Goods Association lobbied President Franklin Roosevelt to move the holiday to November 23 to create an additional week of Christmas shopping. Roosevelt, over much public opposition, did so. Many states refused to move the holiday and some states even celebrated both. In 1940 and 1941, Roosevelt proclaimed the holiday to fall on the third Thursday in November as well, but for 1941, Congress set it as the fourth Thursday where it has remained since.
Part of the reason the retailers gave up on their extra week of shopping is that sales didn't change. Just like with sales tax holidays, the evidence was that purchases did not increase; shoppers just changed the timing of when they shopped. They are both political gimmicks, although moving Thanksgiving has proven to a politically unwise one.
UPDATE: Alert readers sent me a column from today's Wall Street Journal on this very topic, including figures and sources for the failure of the holiday move to boost sales in 1939 and 1940.
Another alert reader argues similarities to candy company efforts to get another hour of daylight for Halloween.
Subscribe to the Tax Foundation Newsletter
Join the Tax Foundation's fight for sound tax policy Go
About the Tax Policy Blog
The Tax Policy Blog is the official blog of the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research organization that has monitored tax policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. Our economists welcome your feedback. If you would like to send an e-mail to the author of a blog post, please click on that person's name to locate his or her e-mail address or visit our staff page here.