Give Thanks Eh! – A Brief History of Canadian Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving is held the second Monday in October, unlike American Thanksgiving, which falls in November. I’ve know folks who thought this was due to wanting a different holiday, or because our pilgrims traveled at different times, or even because we have an earlier harvest. In a spurt of Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to do a little fact finding and bring you a delightful look at what makes Canadian Thanksgiving what it is today!

Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday designated to giving thanks to the powers that be for a bountiful harvest. Our Canadian origins are more closely connected to the traditions of our European counterparts that that of our America ones. Well in advance of European settlement of North America many festivals of thanks were held in Europe in the month of October. While we formally acknowledge the first North American Thanksgiving to have occurred during the voyage of Martin Frobisher in 1578 on his hunt for the Northwest passage, many of the traditions and sentiments are carried over from the festivals held by the Europeans.

We were originally all on the same band wagon – for hundreds of years, we celebrated in either late October or early November all across North America; November 6th was declared a national holiday in 1879.

 

On January 31, 1957

The Governor General of Canada issued a proclamation stating: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

There are several thoughts as to why we felt the need to change the day. One of such thoughts is that Thanksgiving was moved because after the world wars, and appointing November 11th as Remembrance Day, we found that Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week. Others feel it’s more geographically inspired as we are further north and therefore arrived earlier to harvest season than our southern counterparts.

Whatever the reason for the change, I still look forward to October and our Canadian Thanksgiving traditions; Long Weekend, Thanksgiving Day Classic, Turkey, and most especially Family and Friends. I am always sure to take a moment to quietly reflect and appreciate what life’s bountiful harvest had offered me over the course of the year.

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”
Frank A. Clark

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