5 things to know about Canadian Thanksgiving

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Celebrating your first Thanksgiving in Canada? Here are a few things you should know about this holiday:

  1. It is held every second Monday of October

    Yes, you read it right. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, not November as our American neighbours do (fourth Thursday in November). This has something to do with our geographical location. Canada is further north and so the harvest comes earlier, which is why we celebrate it earlier.

    But before it came to be celebrated on the second Monday of October, Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving on different dates. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Thanksgiving celebrations were held either late October or early November. The earliest thanksgivings in history date back to the First Nations’ festivals of completion and abundance of the harvest, and the celebration of explorer Sir Martin Frobisher’s safe arrival in the eastern Arctic in 1578.

    In 1879, Parliament declared November 6th as a day of Thanksgiving, making it a national holiday. However, after the First World War, Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day (November 11th) fell on the same week. The Parliament decided to move it to the second Monday of October in 1957.

  2. It’s all about the harvest

    American Thanksgiving traces its roots to the Pilgrims‘ first celebration in 1621 at the Plymouth Plantation. Canadian Thanksgiving is traditionally about celebrating harvest. In the 1957 official declaration of Thanksgiving, the Canadian Parliament announced that it would be “a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada had been blessed”. Today, the celebration is an opportunity to express gratitude for all the good things in our lives. We celebrate by enjoying a wonderful feast with our family and friends.

  3. It is a statutory holiday

    Thanksgiving Day is one of the eight statutory holidays observed in Manitoba. This means you get to enjoy a long weekend with your family and friends! Since it’s an official holiday, most stores in Manitoba are closed or operate on a limited schedule. If you’re planning on running errands, going to the mall or shopping during the long weekend, do it on Saturday or Sunday, or check store schedules before you go.

  4. Turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie

    Canadian Thanksgiving feasts usually consist of roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But don’t let this stop you from making the spread more colorful with your own traditional dishes. Many Canadian families celebrate with food like dim sum, ham, slaw, and other international treats. This is just another sign that Canada is a haven of multiculturalism.

  5. It is not as closely associated with shopping

    While there may be some “Thanksgiving Week Sales” before, during or after the weekend, Canada’s biggest shopping day is on Boxing Day which is on December 26th. In the U.S., Black Friday is as eagerly anticipated as Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is the biggest sale event of the year. Americans consider this the start of the Christmas shopping season. Many people take advantage of big discounts and special offers from most retailers on this day.

Updated September 14, 2023.
Sources: The First Thanksgiving in North America by Laura Neilson Bonikowsky (Canadian Encyclopedia); Canadian Thanksgiving (kidzworld.com); Three ways Canadian Thanksgiving differs from American Thanksgiving, Carolyn Ali (Inside Vancouver).

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Community Resources

Want to know about other Canadian holidays? We’ve listed down the statutory and unofficial ones.

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