Thanksgiving the Canadian Way

A Canadian flag, vegetables, pumpkins, squash, apples, maple and oak leaves, acorns on a wooden background.

Here in the United States, the start of October means gearing up for Halloween with spooky decorations, scary costumes, and tasty treats. But for our neighbors to the north, one holiday comes before Halloween, and that’s Thanksgiving.

Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving every year on the second Monday of October—this year, that’s October 14. Officially, the holiday has been celebrated since 1789, though the day has varied over the centuries. However, the first known observance was by Sir Martin Frobisher in 1578, which is also considered the first Thanksgiving by Europeans on the continent.

The holiday isn’t celebrated in the same way across the country. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “Thanksgiving is an official statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It is called Action de grâce in Quebec and is celebrated to a much lesser extent there than in the rest of the country.” Certain traditions are also relatively flexible compared to ours in the United States. Families may choose to have their Thanksgiving dinner on different days of the weekend, for instance: while the holiday falls on Monday, many choose to celebrate together on Saturday or Sunday.

The foods you’ll find on the table in Canada don’t differ too much from our tables in the U.S. Turkey is common, though other proteins such as ham are also popular; mashed potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables are prevalent as well, and pumpkin pie is a customary dessert. Different provinces may favor unique dishes as well: “For example, Jiggs’ dinner is often preferred over turkey in Newfoundland” and for dessert “there are also regional favourites, such as Nanaimo bars in British Columbia and butter tarts in Ontario.”

Thanksgiving holidays in the U.S. and Canada were initially celebrated as or based on harvest festivals, but they eventually evolved into what they are today: days of goodwill and giving thanks with family and friends. National holidays such as this can be a way for people to show the world what their culture values. As in the U.S., many in Canada use the holiday as a time to bring people together, and to give to both those in need and those who are new to the country. In 2016, CTV News Winnipeg highlighted a community that brought together Syrian families for their first Canadian Thanksgiving dinner:

Have you celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada, or with Canadian friends? Tell us about your experience on Twitter or Facebook.

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