Originally written on October 2021, updated 2023
Since 1957, Canadian Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated on the second Monday of October.
Basically, it is a chance for people to give thanks for fortunes in the past year, including a good harvest.
It is a holiday that shares many similarities with its American equivalent but with a number of things that set it apart, including that it happens a full month and a half before American Thanksgiving.
Here we will explain what people do on Canadian Thanksgiving, as well as the ways that it differs from U.S. Thanksgiving.
Long before Canada celebrated thanksgiving, the native people of America held festivals and ceremonies to celebrate the completion and bounty of harvest, way before European settlers and explorers arrived in modern Canada.
And early European thanksgivings took place in order to give thanks for some special fortune.
One example of this is the ceremony that English navigator and early explorer of Canada’s northeast coast Martin Frobisher held in 1578, into what is today the Canadian Territory of Nunavut. He held this celebration after he survived an extensive journey in an aim to find a passage to Asia from Europe.
In any case, a lot of thanksgivings in the 18th century occurred after noteworthy events, and the custom of a yearly thanksgiving festival was first brought to Canada as a result of refugees fleeing from the civil war in the United States.
From 1879, Thanksgiving Day occurred each year, yet there were different themes and it was held on a different day every year, including one the most common, blessings of an abundant harvest.
However, in later years King Edward VII’s coronation and Queen Victoria’s diamond and golden jubilees became the theme in later years.
From the end of World War I until 1930, both Thanksgiving Day and Armistice Day were celebrated on the Monday falling the closest to the 11th of November, the date that marked the official end of hostilities in WW1.
Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day in 1931 and Thanksgiving was moved to a Monday in October.
Since 1957, it has always occurred on the Second Monday of October.
Canadian Thanksgiving is associated with the European tradition of harvest festivals.
At this time of year, a common image that people see is a horn, a cornucopia, filled with seasonal vegetables and fruit.
Cornucopia literally means “Horn of Plenty” in Latin and, in Ancient Greece, this was a symbol of plenty of bounty.
Ears of corn, pumpkins, and turkeys, as well as large displays of food, are also used to symbolize Canadian Thanksgiving.
In any case, this is a public holiday, and lot of people have the day off work.
This gives them a three-day weekend, which they will typically use to have family and friends in their own homes or visit those who live far away. Also post offices and schools are closed, as well as a lot of businesses and stores, and usually there is also a reduced timetable in terms of public transport, with some services not running at all.
It is a tradition on this day to prepare a special meal that traditionally include a roast turkey, as well as seasonal produce, for example pecan nuts, corn ears, or pumpkin.
Some people also decide to take a short autumn vacation, especially because it can be the final opportunity to use their holiday homes or cottages before the winter season.
Other activities that are popular during this time include outdoor breaks among the amazing colors of the autumn in Canada, fishing, and hiking and, If you are a fan of the Canadian Football League, you may also decide to spend the three-day break enjoying the Thanksgiving Day Classic matches.
Of course, no matter how you decide to spend your Canadian Thanksgiving, as the main thing to remember is that this is a day of thanks.
And so it is important to spend some time reflecting on what you are thankful for, including people who have played an important role in your life or done something special for you.
Well…but what are differences between U.S. and Canadian Thanksgiving?
Of course, most of people will think about the U.S when they hear the word thanksgiving, and so you may be wondering if the two holidays are observed in the same way.
Actually no, as there are some key differences between both of them.
You will notice, for example, that parades and football are smaller affairs in Canada.
Similarly to the U.S., you can expect football marathons to occur on the day, giving families and friends the opportunity to watch lot of sport.
But, aside from this, the traditions are pared down a little bit.
And Thanksgiving Day in the United States takes place in November, not October, and there are a number of reasons why this is the case.
One is because the Canadian Thanksgiving is more about thanks for the harvest season, as opposed to being about the arrival of pilgrims and, moreover, geographically, Canada is further north than the U.S.
This means that the Canadian harvest season will arrive a little bit before the American harvest season does.
This is why it makes sense for Canadian Thanksgiving to occur earlier, in October, rather than November.
Love them or hate them, if Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become a big part of the Thanksgiving season in the United States, in Canada there’s no real post-Thanksgiving shopping craze, and this gives Canadians the chance to focus purely on celebrating the beauty of early October and the harvest!
A Canadian equivalent of a huge retail sales event, is Boxing Day, and this happens two months after Thanksgiving….
Images from web – Google Research