5 things to know about Canadian Thanksgiving

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

  1. It is held every second Monday of October

    Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October while Americans hold it on the fourth Thursday of November. This is because Thanksgiving started as a celebration of the harvest. Canada is further north so the harvest comes earlier.

    Canada had different dates for Thanksgiving in the past. Its earliest celebration was linked to the First Nations’ festivals of completion and abundance of the harvest. Then it became a celebration of explorer Sir Martin Frobisher’s safe arrival in the eastern Arctic in 1578. In those days, Thanksgiving was celebrated either late October or early November. In 1879, November 6th was declared as a Day of Thanksgiving, making it a national holiday. After the First World War, Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day (November 11th) fell on the same week. So the government moved Thanksgiving Day to the second Monday of October in 1957.

  2. Thanksgiving is about harvest

    Canadian Thanksgiving is about celebrating the harvest while American Thanksgiving points to the Pilgrims’ feast at the Plymouth Plantation in 1621.

    The Canadian Parliament said in the 1957 official declaration of Thanksgiving that it would be “a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada had been blessed”. Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving to show gratitude for all our blessings, not just the harvest. It is an occasion to share a wonderful feast with our family and friends.

  3. It is an official holiday

    Thanksgiving is one of the eight official holidays in Manitoba. This means you’ll have a long weekend! Most stores are closed on this day. Some open only for a few hours. Check store schedules before you go.

  4. Turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie

    Traditional food includes roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But you can serve your own native dishes. Today, many Canadian families celebrate with food like dim sum, ham, slaw, and others. This is expected because Canada is a multicultural country.

  5. It is not about shopping

    There are only a few “Thanksgiving Week Sales” in Canada compared to the US. Our biggest shopping day is on December 26th, Boxing Day. In the US, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Most stores offer big discounts and special offers. It is the start of the Christmas shopping season for them.

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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Want to know about other Canadian holidays? Check the list.

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