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7 Weird Thanksgiving Laws

Published November 20, 2019

As you prepare to feast, here are 7 weird laws that you didn't know about Thanksgiving.

The Turkey Pardon

Every year the president of the United States is presented with a live turkey as a gift, which he then promptly pardons. While this may seem like a time-honored tradition dating back decades, if not centuries, it isn’t that old in its current form. The first Thanksgiving turkey was officially spared by President Kennedy, although Abraham Lincoln saved the life of Christmas turkey which his son had taken a liking to in 1865. The act of a formal pardoning, however, has only been done since 1989, when President George H.W. Bush held a ceremony in the Rose Garden.

Source: The Berman Law Group (

The Date of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is on the fourth Thursday of November and has been so since the days of the Pilgrims, right? Wrong. The first Thanksgiving as a national celebration was on November 26, 1789 – a Tuesday. George Washington proclaimed it as a day of thanksgiving for the newly signed United States Constitution. It wasn’t until years later in 1863 when Thanksgiving became a national holiday when Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a day of “thanksgiving and praise.”

This last Thursday, however, caused some issues. In 1939 and 1940, President Roosevelt changed the holiday to the third Thursday, to allow for more shopping to take place, to boost the depressed economy. It was only in 1941 that Congress put an end to the shifting dates, enshrining the holiday on the fourth Thursday as we know it today.

Source: The Berman Law Group (

Thou Shalt Not Shop

Black Friday has become almost as big of a tradition as Thanksgiving itself. So much so, that now stores have started opening their doors for eager shoppers on the holiday itself! Unfortunately for those looking for deals, however, several states don’t allow the business to be open on Thanksgiving. In Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island, for example, colonial-era “blue laws” prohibit many stores form being open on Thanksgiving. These laws were enacted centuries ago to encourage church attendance on Sundays and public holidays, and many remain in effect to the present day.

Source: The Berman Law Group (

Power on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a powerful and meaningful time where Americans come together and give thanks for all the blessings we have. In North Carolina and Minnesota, however, the power of Thanksgiving has a whole different meaning. Both states have enacted legislation mandating that utility plants use some of the turkey waste created on farms to generate some of the power in their plants. Talk about Thanksgiving getting you all fired up!

Source: The Berman Law Group (

Alcohol on Thanksgiving

If you’re hosting or attending a Thanksgiving dinner, keep in mind that many states have laws against selling liquor on Thanksgiving (as well as on Sundays and other major holidays).

Some states have more lenient liquor laws, such as Alabama, where you can purchase beer and wine, but not spirits, on Thanksgiving. States such as Kansas and Oklahoma are more strict. In fact, they still have not ratified the Twenty-first Amendment which repealed the nationwide prohibition in 1933.

Source: Law Depot Blog (

Cleaning before guests arrive?

In Pennsylvania, it’s against the law to sweep dirt and dust under a rug, while in New York City, you cannot shake a dust mop out of a window.

Source: Law Depot Blog (

Do you top your pie with a scoop of ice cream?

If you like your pie served with a scoop of ice cream, be sure to eat it with a spoon in Rosemead, California, because ice cream cannot be eaten with a fork.

Also in Rosemead…

Your family may be unable to polish off the entire Thanksgiving meal. If you have leftovers, remember that in Redwood City, California, gravy cannot be fried.

Source: Law Depot Blog (

Photo of Laurel Root.

Guest blogger Laurel Root is the Manager of Recruitment & International Enrollment Services at UB School of Law.


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