‘Jeopardy!’ Icon Matt Amodio Reflects on Historic Thanksgiving Celebrated in February

by John Jamison
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Leave it to an all-time great Jeopardy! contestant to dig up an obscure presidential fact from the 1700s for Thanksgiving. Recent contestant Matt Amodio took to Twitter this Turkey Day, sharing a little-known detail about a time when we celebrated the holiday in February.

Believe it or not, our nation’s first leader took it upon himself to issue a proclamation naming a day in the middle of winter as one of thanksgiving. Talk about an abuse of power.

Now, Jeopardy! legend Matt Amodio’s tweet is a little misleading. It’s technically accurate, yes. But notice that we failed to capitalize the “t” when talking about George Washington’s proclaimed day.

We all know the story of the first “Thanksgiving” dating back to the Plymouth colony in the early 1600s. The harvest celebration enjoyed by those early colonists reportedly took place in the autumn, but for the next 100-plus years, American colonists celebrated different “days of thanksgiving” throughout the year. This is all according to the Mount Vernon Library, mind you.

No official date was on the books until the late 1700s when then-General George Washington proclaimed December 18 as the national day of thanksgiving following the Continental Army’s victory at Saratoga. The next 10 years brought them a handful of proclamations with changing dates. Then, in 1789, it was decided that November 26 become the day of thanks honoring the newly created Constitution.

Of course, American History buffs will know that the holiday we celebrate today wasn’t officially designated as a federal holiday until Abraham Lincoln came along in the 1860s. But we digress.

Why On Earth Would George Washington Put Thanksgiving in February?

We apologize for the full-on history lesson here. But hey, it’s Thanksgiving. We might as well learn a bit about the holiday. During America’s early years, the likes of Washington, Adams, and Madison were throwing around days of thanksgiving like hotcakes. They proclaimed them to celebrate, recognize, or honor various things.

In Washington’s February 1795 case, the one Jeopardy! champ Matt Amodio alluded to, the proclamation came as a result of the government putting down a Pennsylvania rebellion over taxation. And it’s that simple. Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to recognize the achievement.

‘Jeopardy!’ Champ Matt Amodio Saving His Money, Not Spending It

Amodio’s $1.5 million in winnings are significant, to say the least. We could think of plenty of uses for the money. But the graduate student doesn’t plan on spending it any time soon.

“Even if I were to get myself something nice that I like, I would view that as such an inefficient use of the money. Even if I got [some] enjoyment out of it, I would be giving myself [more] hassle over having spent the money. It would just ruin the whole experience for me,” Amodio told Ohio State University.

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