Canadian Thanksgiving occurs on the second Monday of October. This means that it’s today (Oct. 11, 2010).
Canadian Thanksgiving is similar to American Thanksgiving. During this celebration, turkey is cooked, macaroni and cheese and smashed potatoes are also served.
The obvious difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving is the date on which each occurs. In the U.S.A, Thanksgiving falls at the end of November, about a month before Christmas. In Canada, it’s the second week in October.
The reason for this has not been thoroughly explained, or is simply not really understood. The general belief is that, because Canada is slightly colder, the fall season comes earlier, and by default, so does the harvest, that which is being celebrated. In this regard, celebrating the harvest earlier in October makes sense.
However, historically, Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated in early November, but due to its closeness to Remembrance Day (Nov. 11), the Canadian Parliament moved it to early October in the 19th century (1899).
This brings me to a second issue. What exactly are Canadians celebrating when they celebrate Thanksgiving? According to American history, the Thanksgiving tradition goes back to the first time the Native Americans had a feast with the European settlers at Plymouth Plantation in 1621. It was a feast to give thanks for surviving the harsh winter.
In Canada, the myth follows that the Thanksgiving tradition was first observed on April 15, 1872 to celebrate the recovered health of the Prince of Wales (Prince Edward VII). However, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Thanksgiving draws upon 3 traditions: harvest celebrations in European peasant societies for which the symbol was the cornucopia (horn of plenty); formal observances, such as that celebrated by Martin FROBISHER in the eastern Arctic in 1578 – the first North American Thanksgiving; and the Pilgrims’ celebration of their first harvest in Massachusetts (1621) involving the uniquely American turkey, squash and pumpkin. The celebration was brought to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and the citizens of Halifax commemorated the end of the SEVEN YEARS’ WAR (1763) with a day of Thanksgiving. Loyalists brought the celebration to other parts of the country. In 1879 Parliament declared Nov 6 as a day of Thanksgiving; it was celebrated as a national rather than a religious holiday.
So, apparently, Canadian Thanksgiving has three sources to thank for its existence: Sir Martin Frobisher, for celebrating the unofficial first Thanksgiving in the maritime provinces; Prince Edward VII for recovering from his illness, and of course, American pilgrims, for celebrating Thanksgiving in 1621, and American Loyalists for bringing the tradition to Canada during the following years.
Today, however, most Canadians don’t know the history of Thanksgiving. In Canada, it’s understood as just a mandatory family holiday. It’s a holiday when you give thanks for all your blessings, family, life and everything else you feel is worthy of giving thanks for.