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Thanksgiving originally was on last Thursday

Question: How is the date of Thanksgiving set? I thought it was on the last Thursday of November.

Answer: It originally was observed on the last Thursday of November, a tradition that began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that date as "a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father."

However, in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set it one week earlier because he wanted to help business by lengthening the shopping period before Christmas.

Congress decided that, after 1941, the fourth Thursday of November would be observed as Thanksgiving Day and would be a legal federal holiday.

"In God We Trust'

Question: When and under what circumstances did "In God We Trust" first start appearing on U.S. money?

Answer: From Treasury Department records, the first suggestion that God be recognized on U.S. coinage can be traced to a letter addressed to the secretary of the Treasury from a minister in 1861. An act of Congress, approved on April 11, 1864, authorized the production of 2-cent coins, upon which the motto first appeared.

The motto was omitted from the new gold coins issued in 1907, causing a storm of public criticism. As a result, legislation passed in May 1908 made "In God We Trust" mandatory on all coins on which it had previously appeared, and legislation approved July 11, 1955, made it mandatory on all U.S. coins and paper currency.

The appearance of the motto on U.S. money was challenged several years ago in the federal courts. The challenge was rejected by the lower courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

Have a question about the news? C.C. Wilson III and Saeed Ahmed will try to get an answer. Call (404) 222-2002 or write to them at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, P.O. Box 4689, Atlanta, GA 30302, or e-mail them at q&aajc.com.

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