How Canadian Thanksgiving Began
The origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are more closely connected to the traditions of Europe than of the United States. Long before Europeans settled in North America, festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest took place in Europe in the month of October. The very first Thanksgiving celebration in North America took place in 1578 in Canada when Martin Frobisher, an explorer from England. in search of the Northwest Passage. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World. That means the first Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts!
Official Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday
For two or three hundred years, Thanksgiving was commended in either late October or early November, before it was pronounced a national occasion in 1879. It was at that point, that November sixth was put aside as the official Thanksgiving occasion. In any case, at that point on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament reported that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to god-like God for the abundant collect with which Canada has been honored.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October on the grounds that after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November eleventh) and Thanksgiving continued falling around the same time. This year Canadian Thanksgiving is October fourteenth, 2019!
The 49th Parallel
Another reason for Canadian Thanksgiving arriving earlier than its American counterpart is that Canada is geographically further north than the United States, causing the Canadian harvest season to arrive earlier than the American harvest season. And since Thanksgiving for Canadians is more about giving thanks for the harvest season than the arrival of pilgrims, it makes sense to celebrate the holiday in October. So what are the differences between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, other than the date? Not much! Both Canadians and Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with parades, family gatherings, pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey!
Canadian Thanksgiving is different from the US holiday
It honors a different Thanksgiving
The date of the true first Thanksgiving is hotly contested. Some historians believe it occurred not in the US, but in Nunavut.
When Sir Martin Frobisher sailed from England to the Canadian territory in 1578, he and his crew celebrated with salt beef and mushy peas and thoroughly gave thanks for making it across the ocean safely.
The Pilgrims didn’t arrive at Plymouth until 1621, but American Thanksgiving became a national holiday nearly a century before its Canadian counterpart did in 1879, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.
It’s in October
And on a Monday, to boot. Canadian Thanksgiving is observed on the second Monday of October every year, though many opt to feast on the weekend.
Its date has moved around several times, but in 1957, the government settled on October. The new date lined up with the completion of the Canadian harvest, and it’s just early enough in the fall to beat the winter’s biting cold, the Canadian Encyclopedia said.
It’s not all about turkey
The American Thanksgiving stalwart is a Canadian staple, too, but celebrants often sub in with provincial delicacies.
Newfoundlanders might enjoy Jiggs’ dinner, a boiled meat dish often paired with a split-pea pudding. In lieu of pumpkin pie, Ontarians often serve butter tarts, bite-sized pastry shells stuffed with a syrupy filling.
There are still plenty of seasonal vegetables, breads and beverages served. They’re just prepared and presented in a uniquely Canadian way.
It’s not observed nationwide
It’s an official statutory holiday throughout Canada except in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Employers aren’t required to pay their employees for the day off, so families often celebrate it the day before.
Football and parades are smaller affairs
As in the US, Thanksgiving in Canada brings with it football marathons, a nationally broadcast parade and plenty of family time. Those traditions are just a little pared down.
There’s no department store-sponsored parade broadcast nationwide in Canada, but there is the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade. The German beerfest is televised on CTV with 120 floats and plenty of costumed characters.
Black Friday is out, Boxing Day is in
The Canadian equivalent of Black Friday takes place more than two months after Thanksgiving. On December 26, stores cut prices and open early in honor of Boxing Day.
The holiday originated in the UK — and no, it’s not a national celebration of pugilism. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, upper-class employers would share boxes of leftover presents or money with their servants, who were required to work on Christmas. The act of charity has evolved into a day of discounted shopping (and a convenient time to trade in an unwanted gift).