Millions of people all around the world know what an American Thanksgiving looks like, thanks to the perennial popularity of Hollywood movies. But what about Thanksgiving in Canada? Surely it’s not just some carbon copy of the US
tradition. The fact of the matter is that there’s a number of differences between the two and they’re not all superficial. In fact you may be surprised to learn that Canada beat its southern neighbors to the punch when it comes to Thanksgiving Day origins...
Americans tend to trace their Thanksgiving tradition back to a three day feast shared by the Pilgrims and Native Americans after a successful harvest in the year 1621. That may seem like a fairly time-hallowed celebration, but the truth is that Canadians look back even further to the roots of their Thanksgiving. In 1578 Martin Frobisher set out with a small fleet of 15 ships in search of the Northwest Passage. After a perilous voyage Frobisher and his men anchored at Frobisher Bay, in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, and set aside a time to give thanks for their safe arrival. Although it was only declared a national holiday in 1879, it is Frobisher’s celebration of life and hope that marks the birth of the Canadian Thanksgiving tradition.
The exact day doesn’t matter
Officially, Thanksgiving Day in Canada falls on the second Monday of October every year - that’s when the statutory holiday takes place in most Canadian jurisdictions (except for a handful of Atlantic provinces, where it’s treated as an optional holiday). But when it comes to which exact day that people get together for a feast of turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, the people of Canada aren’t quite as fussy as their American cousins. Any day over the course of the long weekend is considered appropriate for celebrating Thanksgiving - which is a pretty good system when you think about it. That way you can schedule your annual banquet early in the weekend and spend the last couple days recovering before you have to roll back in to work.
It’s different for the French
While for many people Thanksgiving is one of the biggest Canadian holidays, Quebec’s francophones don’t really consider it that big of a deal. It’s still a statutory holiday in Quebec
, but instead of spending the day at home with family, it’s customary for French Canadians to use the long weekend as one last chance to head away (often to their cottage) before winter descends. The holiday, known as Action de grâce
or Jour de l'action de grâce
in French, is still an occasion for turkey and stuffing for some but it’s fair to say that in Quebec, Thanksgiving isn’t quite the festive juggernaut that it’s become in the rest of North America.
If you’re from Canada we want to hear from you - how do you celebrate Thanksgiving? Will you be driving away for the weekend
or spending the day with your extended family? Let us know in the comments below! Great destinations to discover in Canada at this time of year include Toronto