How often does my birthday fall on Thanksgiving?

Posted July 7th, 2010 in Uncategorized and tagged , , , by Scott Forbes

Like many people born between in late November, my birthday occasionally falls on Thanksgiving Day – on average it happens once every seven years, but the pattern is complicated by the subtleties of the Gregorian calendar. Out of idle curiosity I went looking online to find out which years I’d be having turkey and cranberries on my birthday, but the search engines came up empty. (I was sort of hoping Wolfram Alpha could pull an answer out of its knowledge engine, but to no avail.)

So, for posterity’s sake: Thanksgiving is always on the fourth Thursday in November, which means the holiday always falls between November 22nd and 28th. The simple formula for calculating the date of Thanksgiving is to take last year’s date and subtract a day, and then add seven days if you’ve ended up on the 21st… so if Thanksgiving 2009 was on the 26th (which it was), then Thanksgiving 2010 is on the 25th, and in 2011 it’ll be on the 24th.

But then things start getting complicated, because 2012 is a leap year. Thanksgiving 2012 is on the 22nd, not the 23rd – that extra day in February pushes us back two days instead of just one. And then, in 2013, we wrap around: One day earlier than the 22nd would be the 21st, but now we’re looking at the third Thursday of the month, so we add seven days to get Thanksgiving on the 28th.

All this adds up to a pattern that takes 2800 years to go through a full cycle, thanks to our calendar’s quirky rules for determining whether it’s a leap year or not. In the short term (that is, from 1901 to 2100) there’s a leap year every four years, and your birthday will be on Thanksgiving four times out of every 28: If your birthday falls on Thanksgiving in a given year, then it falls on Thanksgiving again exactly 28 years later, and three other times in between at intervals of six years, five years, six years, and then eleven years.

And so, to answer my own question (and with the help of a handy spreadsheet), here’s a list of the years between now and 2100 when Thanksgiving falls on a particular date. Plan your birthdays accordingly.

November 22nd 2012, 2018, 2029, 2035, 2040, 2046, 2057, 2063, 2068, 2074, 2085, 2091, 2096
November 23rd 2017, 2023, 2028, 2034, 2045, 2051, 2056, 2062, 2073, 2079, 2084, 2090
November 24th 2016, 2022, 2033, 2039, 2044, 2050, 2061, 2067, 2072, 2078, 2089, 2095
November 25th 2021, 2027, 2032, 2038, 2049, 2055, 2060, 2066, 2077, 2083, 2088, 2094, 2100
November 26th 2015, 2020, 2026, 2037, 2043, 2048, 2054, 2065, 2071, 2076, 2082, 2093, 2099
November 27th 2014, 2025, 2031, 2036, 2042, 2053, 2059, 2064, 2070, 2081, 2087, 2092, 2098
November 28th 2013, 2019, 2024, 2030, 2041, 2047, 2052, 2058, 2069, 2075, 2080, 2086, 2097

This post is probably a sign that I have too much free time, but it’s one of those nagging little questions that I’d wondered about occasionally for years and never got around to finding out… and then discovered that the vast storehouse of information on the Web didn’t actually have the answer yet. So here it is.

Update: Edited my table to include the year 2036, which somehow disappeared when I was doing my calculating.  Thanks to commenter “rancheria” – who’ll be turning 88 on November 27, 2036, and happy birthday in advance – for catching the lost year.

Update: Edited to correct a few inaccuracies for the November 23rd birthdays, as pointed out by alert reader Mike Boyd. This time for sure, Rocky!

5 Responses so far.

  1. elaeames says:

    Hey Fellow occasional Thanksgiving Birthday! I was born on bird day, and in keeping with the ever changing cycle – I get to celebrate on bird day this year!

    Happy Birthday to you – Hope you are spoiled and have a meal of your own (other than turkey).

    Thanks for putting together the list – I was actually unaware that this year was a bird-day birthday until a friend mentioned it!


  2. domenica says:

    Thank you for adding additional dates. I have a close relative with an occasional Thanksgiving birthday and when I was doing research about a year ago I came across the following (below) on Wikipedia. Just like you, someone had already taken a great deal of time researching dates. Happy Birthday!

    Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern
    New section submitted for inclusion in the Birthday article. Was originally posted to the Thanksgiving article discussion.

    Thanksgiving (USA)is a rare holiday that doesn’t fall on the same date each year. The date is affected by the fact that it is fixed to the fourth Thursday of November. And leap year causes the date to jump a year. The resulting pattern is a 28 year cycle that goes like this; 11 years, 6 years, 5 years, 6 years then repeats.

    If your Birthday falls between 11/22 and 11/28 it will eventually fall on Thanksgiving day. The easiest way to tell if your Birthday is going to fall on Thanksgiving is to look at the first day of November. If the first day of the month is a;
    Sun = Thanksgiving is on the 26th,
    Mon = 25th,
    Tues = 24th,
    Wed = 23rd,
    Thu = 22nd,
    Fri = 28th,
    Sat = 27th.

    Following is a list of Thanksgiving Birthday’s for each possible date;
    11/22 — 2007, 2012, 2018, 2029, 2035;
    11/23 — 2006, 2017, 2023, 2028, 2034;
    11/24 — 2011, 2016, 2022, 2033, 2039;
    11/25 — 2010, 2021, 2027, 2032, 2038;
    11/26 — 2009, 2015, 2020, 2026, 2037;
    11/27 — 2008, 2014, 2025, 2031, 2036;
    11/28 — 2013, 2019, 2024, 2030, 2041
    Gregmjr 23:08, 3 February 2007 (UTC) Gregmjr (talk) 15:05, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

  3. rancheria says:

    Thanks Scott for providing us Thanksgiving Week Babies with your valuable info and calendar. I just this last hour tried to figure out the pattern for when my birthday falls on Thanksgiving. Starting with a very past and recent Thanksgiving birthday, I looked up many Nov. calendar months on the net. Exactly like you, I too went looking online to see what years I would be having turkey and cranberries for my birthday. I may have been inspired to do this because this year I missed both a Thanksgiving feast and a birthday feast two days later. I vowed to never let that happen again. I figured out the pattern of: 6yrs, 5yrs, 6yrs, and then 11 yrs.
    I looked at your projected Thanksgiving dates for my birthdate, Nov. 27th, to see how old I would have to make it to, to have my birthday turkey on 2042. i would be 94 on that date. So, to hedge my turkey and cranberries with trimmings wish bet, I looked at the previous possible Thanksgiving/birthday synchronicity and found your listed date was 2031, when I would be only 83. Damn, I thought, why did the dreaded 11 year interval after to hit me exactly at the end of my hoped for lengthy life. 11 year spread, Either 83 or 94 yrs. of age to make it to my Last Thanksgiving. That’s a lengthy spread at an advanced age! So, I rechecked and found that you had left out 2036, when I would be only 88 years of age. Whew, well, my Dad will be 88 in less than 5 months, I’m hoping, so maybe my reaching 88 yrs. of age is possible for me. So, you see, leaving out the year 2036 for me, could have been a very vital disappointing mistake !! Thanks to Domenica for having the 2036 date for us November 27 people listed.
    I had projected out to this date, myself, but just had to check again. Thanks so much for bringing all this up, and shedding much needed light on the calendar patterns for us lucky Thanksgiving Babies. Your way in which you came to this was identical to mine. I had too much unwanted time on my hands tonight because I awoke in the middle of the night and could not get back to sleep. Finding your great blog site and subscribing got me all the way ’till the dawn and I can now go have breakfast. Before I found your info, I wondered why there was nothing on the internet about this ! Scott, you are a true pioneer and have broken rare ground.
    Thanks again and I look forward to reading your blog, as I may find much in common with a blogger like you, who thinks just like me when it comes to loving turkey and cranberries on his birthday. –And the same with wanting to figure it out, and wondering why there was no help from the internet. Only, in my case, you and Domenica were there to help me in my times of great Insomnia relief need. It’s very appreciated. I’ll tell this story on my 94th birthday on Nov. 27th, 2042, after telling it on the same date in 2036, when I want to celebrate reaching 88 on Thanksgiving !! Merry Christmas (that’s an easy one for us Nov. 27 people–it’s always exactly 4 weeks, to the day, beyond our birthday) Jack

  4. Lee Denny says:

    Scott I want to thank you for taking the time to answer this question which has bothered me for most of my 60 years on this earth. Actually I didn’t expect to find the answer but decided to look on line because my grand-niece was born just this Thanksgiving (the 22nd) weighing in at 11 lbs 13oz (the size of a medium turkey). Since my birthday (the 28th) also falls on Thanks giving every so often I decided it was time I discovered the answer once and for all. Thank you for the peace of mind.

  5. dare_2_dream says:

    Thank you for posting this.. I now know when to avoid family get togethers… When my birthday is on thanksgiving they always put a candle in the turkey.. I HATE turkey!!lol

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