Did you know that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada? (and other Thanksgiving facts)

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Canada was the first place in North America to celebrate Thanksgiving. The first people who lived in Canada are known as Indigenous Peoples. They have been celebrating Thanksgiving for many years. This celebration is a way to say thank you for a good crop. They started this custom before people from Europe came to Canada.

In the year 1578, a man from England named Sir Martin Frobisher went to Canada. The place he went to is now called Nunavut. They had a meal to show their joy for their safe trip. This event took place 43 years before the first Thanksgiving in America.

Here are some more interesting things about Thanksgiving that you might like:

Samuel de Champlain and his weekly thanksgiving feasts

In 1604, a man from France, Samuel de Champlain, moved to Canada. He lived in a place named St. Croix. But, a very bad illness called scurvy made many of his men very ill. Almost half of them died.

They chose to leave that place. They moved to a new place called Port Royal. Sadly, the illness followed them. But, it was not as bad as before. This was because the winter was not very cold.

Champlain was very happy about this. So, he started L’Ordre de Bon Temps. In English, this means “Order of Good Cheer”. They had a big meal every few weeks. This was also a way to give more food to the men to help them fight the illness. They believed that eating well would help stop the scurvy.

Families from the local Mi’kmaq group also came to these big meals. They ate and had a fun time.

Thanksgiving symbols: Turkey and cornucopia

Have you ever seen a shape in Thanksgiving displays that looks like a pointy hat? We call it a cornucopia. Some call it “horn of plenty” (see the picture above). It stands for the harvest season. People who came from Europe to Canada brought it with them.

The turkey is the most common symbol of Thanksgiving. People call Thanksgiving “Turkey Day”. The first food for Thanksgiving were wild animals and birds. The turkey was not always part of it. However, as time passed, turkey became the bird that people liked to eat at Thanksgiving. This change happened for a reason. The turkey was a bird that was often seen in North America in the 1900s. Also, the turkey is a good choice for Thanksgiving. It is a big bird. So, it can be food for a big family or many friends.

Did you know that Thanksgiving is not a nationwide statutory holiday?

On this special day, many people in Canada don’t need to work. It’s a holiday in Manitoba. However, it’s different in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Here, people can decide if they want to work or not.

People enjoy this day in many ways. For instance, in Quebec, Thanksgiving is called Action de grâce. In Newfoundland, people don’t eat a meal with turkey. Instead, they eat a meal named Jiggs’ dinner. This meal includes salted meat, cabbage and other types of vegetables.

When it’s time for the sweet course, people in BC like to eat Nanaimo bars. But in Ontario, they prefer to eat butter tarts. This is different from the usual sweet course of pumpkin pie.

Did you know that 11 other places in the world celebrate Thanksgiving?

Canada and the U.S. are not the only places with a special day like this. There are 10 more places with a similar day. These places are Liberia, Brazil, Germany, Norfolk Island in Australia, Grenada, China, Leiden in the Netherlands, Japan, South India, Ghana, and Malaysia.

In Brazil, this day is called Dia de Ação de Graças. In Germany, they call it Erntedankfest. People in China call it the Moon Festival. In Japan, it is named Kinrō Kansha no Hi. South India has a day called Pongal. Ghana has a day called Homowo. And in Malaysia, the day is named Kaamatan.

These special days are a way to say thank you for the food grown during the year. They usually happen around October-November. But, Pongal is celebrated in January. Homowo and Kaamatan are celebrated in May. For Liberia and Norfolk Island, the special day is not about saying thanks.

People from America who moved to Liberia brought the Thanksgiving celebration with them. In Grenada, people celebrate the special day to remember a time when America came to the island in 1983. The Dutch celebrate it to show respect to the American Pilgrims. These Pilgrims stayed in Leiden on their journey to the New World.

What will you do for Thanksgiving this year?
Sources: The first Thanksgiving in North America, Laura Neilson Bonikowsky, The Canadian Encyclopedia; Talking turkey: Five facts about Canadian Thanskgiving, Daniel Martins, The Weather Network; Thanksgiving in Canada, Mills, David et al., The Canadian Encyclopedia; The history of Thanksgiving in Canada, Alison Nagy, Canada’s History; 5 countries besides America where people celebrate Thanksgiving, Zack Beauchamp, Vox; How 10 countries besides the US celebrate Thanksgiving, Kae Lani, USA Today; Why We Eat What We Eat On Thanksgiving, Ethan Rex, Mental Floss; and The origin of the cornucopia in Greek mythology, N.S Gill, Thought Co. Accessed September 28, 2020.

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