I’m thinking of my friends in Toronto, Regina, Saskatoon and Vancouver today as they celebrate a very special holiday. It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I know I’m fortunate to know so many kind people, and many of them happen to live in the land of the maple leaf. It gives me another perfect reason to be thankful.
I think the Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving at a better time than we do in the U.S. There is more distance between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. That way it’s less of a temptation to merely see Thanksgiving Day as the kickoff date for the holiday shopping season. It’s distinct and more special.
The Canadian Thanksgiving, while celebrating thankfulness and gratitude has a different basis than that here in the U.S. The Canadian holiday is closely related to the British and European harvest festivals.
The original Canadian Thanksgiving has its start following the completion of the third voyage of Englishman Martin Frobisher in search of the Northwest Passage in 1578. The fleet was plagued by harsh storms and icy waters that scattered the ships from formation. When all but one of the ships docked at Frobisher Bay, a religious gathering was held to express their thankfulness for arriving safely at their destination.
Several years later, the French pioneers under the guidance of Samuel de Champlain held their first large feast of thanks in 1604. The French established “The Order of Good Cheer”, and happily shared their bounty with the native Americans near them.
At the close of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the French colonies came under British dominion. Halifaxians celebrated a day of thanksgiving. The celebrations of thanksgiving were only held sporadically and not annually.
Another ingredient of Canadian Thanksgiving was added at the conclusion of the war of independence for the United States. The British Loyalists to the Crown became refugees and resettled in Canada. With them came the traditions of their own Thanksgiving.
There was still a lack of a uniform date for Thanksgiving celebrations in the country. Upper and Lower Canada observed the holiday on different dates. Sometimes it happened in the spring or early summer. After the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion, the United Province of Canada was formed, the residents observed a standardized Thanksgiving until 1865.
After the Confederation of Canada was finalized, the first all province Thanksgiving was celebrated on April 5, 1872 to honor the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious threat to his health.
After 1879, the holiday was celebrated in the Autumn. The date changed many times until 1957. That’s when the government declared Thanksgiving to be held each second Monday of October.
What do most Canadians do on Thanksgiving? Pretty much what folks in the USA do on our own Thanksgiving. There are football games from the CFL, a big, televised Kitchener Waterloo Oktoberfest Parade, and, of course, the consumption of plenty of food. Naturally, all of this is done under the backdrop of much thankfullness and gratitude by the Canadians for all their blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in Canada.
The Blue Jay of Happiness knows that, in a way, everyday, everywhere can be Thanksgiving Day.