Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations take place on the second Monday of October each year, well before the November Thanksgiving holiday celebrated by our American neighbours to the south.
The very first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place in Canada when British explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in 1578. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World. It’s not well known, but that means that Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts!
Canadian Thanksgiving used to be celebrated in late October or early November. The first official Canadian day of thanks actually started in – of all months – April of 1872, as a grateful nation celebrated the recovery of King Edward VII from an illness. It was declared a national holiday in 1879 and November 6 was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. On January 31, 1957 the Canadian Parliament announced that the second Monday of October would be recognized nationally as Thanksgiving, “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed”. Festivities were moved to the second Monday in October because after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week.
Thanksgiving in Canada has always been associated with religion and culture. Aboriginal people would hold fall feasts thanking the Great Spirit for the bounty of nature. The first European Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada were primarily religious services. In later years, provincial legislatures would proclaim “Blessings of an abundant harvest”.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from all of us here at Food Services!