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

  2. It’s all about the harvest

    While American Thanksgiving traces its roots to the Pilgrims‘ first celebration in 1621 at the Plymouth Plantation, Canadian Thanksgiving is traditionally about celebrating the 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 (not only the harvest) and enjoy 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 are closed or operate on a limited schedule on this day. If you’re planning on running errands, malling or shopping during the long weekend, better 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 roasted 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. Just another sign that Canada is a haven of multiculturalism.

  5. It is not as closely associated with shopping

    While there may be a few “Thanksgiving Week Sales” in Canada during the weekend, the biggest shopping day is on Boxing Day which is on December 26. In the U.S., Thanksgiving signals the coming of Black Friday which is the day after. 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 17, 2020.
 
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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