Tuesday 10 October 2017

Canadian Thanksgiving

For those of you reading this who do not live in Canada, this past Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada. To my Canadian readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

Our holiday lands on the second Monday of October each year, in contrast to that in the United States which is the fourth Thursday in November. Like the one in the US, it is a celebration of the end of harvest and a time when families get together. In some areas there may be parades.

It has been a national holiday here since 1879 when the Canadian Parliament designated the celebration with legislation. The date was not fixed at the time, though. The current date of the second Monday was established only in 1957. It has been marked by Canadians wherever they may have been around the world for a century and a half.
Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force celebrate Thanksgiving in the bombed out Cambrai Cathedral in France in October 1918
Our traditional menu is similar to that in the US, other than in localities where different produce may be grown. Normally there is roast turkey (we had ham this year) with stuffing and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy (ours was cheesy potatoes for a change), sweet potatoes (my favourite) and autumn vegetables (there were carrots and peas on our table). Dessert, brought by our nephew’s wife was apple pie (a traditional fall fruit) and ice cream (good anytime).

It was the United Empire Loyalists, coming from the US after the American Revolution who brought us delights like the turkey and often consumed pumpkin pie. And probably those great sweet potatoes as well! Thank you!

Historically, apparently the first celebration in our part of the world (North America) was by Sir Martin Frobisher in 1578 during his search for the Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Islands. In later centuries French and English settlers organized feasts of thanks in the early autumn, sometimes sharing them with their indigenous neighbours. Surviving Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth Colony, in what is now Massachusetts, held their first harvest feast in October 1621.

The event in both Canada and the US now feature football games although we do not think that any of the original participants of the festivals played the North American variety. Children may well have played with balls, perhaps even kicked one around as their parents and ancestors had done for centuries before.

Thanksgiving is for families. Whether they are small or large, include several generations of just immediate family members, it is a day set aside to celebrate just being together.

I hope yours was a Happy Thanksgiving, too, this year...or will be in a few weeks.