It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend! It’s the first long weekend after school has started and many students (and parents) look forward to this break. But, what is Canadian Thanksgiving, how does it differ from American Thanksgiving, and why is it in October??
I grew up in an American compound overseas and then went to school in the US for seven years, so I have celebrated American Thanksgiving at least seven times. It is truly a big celebration! The memories are very real and I know that the fourth Thursday in November means a few things for our American neighbors: the start of the holiday season, the busiest travel weekend of the year, family and lots of food, being grateful, parades, and the Dallas Cowboys game on TV. In Canada, our Thanksgiving is a little bit different (although we do have Oktoberfest parades, fall festivals, and Canadian Football League games).
For starters, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October (which happens to coincide with Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the US), not in November. It is not necessarily a busy travel weekend and we don’t all celebrate on the Monday – we can celebrate any day of the weekend, hence the ‘light’ traffic. And, believe it or not, only federally regulated companies are off for this holiday in the Atlantic Provinces, where Thanksgiving is an optional holiday.
It’s also warmer in October and sufficiently removed from the hustle and bustle of Christmas, although many retailers do take advantage of the holiday to hold sales and promotions. In Canada, our Thanksgiving weekend is a time for long walks to watch the leaves change, time for welcoming back university kids after for their first break home, and time for closing the cottage for the winter.
The Canadian Thanksgiving we know today was only officially set as a holiday in 1957 when Parliament declared it a statutory holiday and issued a Proclamation, “for general thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings with which the people of Canada have been favored.” Before that, it was celebrated on lots of dates including November 6th, the week of November 11th (with Remembrance Day), and the third Monday in October.
Martin Frobisher, an English voyager, is credited with the first Thanksgiving in the New World when he celebrated the arrival of a safe voyage in 1578 in what is now Nunavut. In Europe, harvest festivals were also held and settlers to the New World continued this tradition. Pilgrims at Plymouth celebrated their first Thanksgiving in 1621.
So, no matter when or where you celebrate Thanksgiving, it is about being grateful, celebrating the harvest season with family and friends, and lots of food! Here’s how we celebrate:
My husband makes the turkey in a brown bag, a method he learned on TV when he was a kid, and one that is tried and true. Follow this link for one way of how it’s done. As a result, I have never made a turkey myself! Let’s just say that I am thankful for that. We also enjoy stuffing, potatoes, beans, cranberry sauce, pumpkin bars, cookies, and pecan pie.
We put out our Thanksgiving scarecrow as well as some of the Halloween decorations, melding two holidays the same way Americans tie Thanksgiving with the holidays. Pumpkins and gourds and squash are also used for decorating outside and inside.
We have friends over and we also are lucky to be invited, so this weekend is a big social weekend. It’s a time to reconnect and relax.
Let me know what your traditions are.
Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!!Email This Post