And, just like in the United States, Thanksgiving is a big party in Canada and it is certainly one of the most felt and awaited holidays by the Canadian people.
It is a popular time for Canadians to get together with their families, so more people than usual generally choose to travel during this long weekend.
Officially, the festival expresses gratitude for the end of the harvest season and, according to my research, the first one was officially proclaimed by the Canadian parliament with the following words: “It will be a day of general Thanksgiving to our Almighty God for the harvest with which Canada has been blessed during the year.”
But when is Canadian Thanksgiving?
Although the United States and Canada share the same continent, the two countries do not share the same day dedicated for Thanksgiving.
In Canada, Thanksgiving used to be celebrated in November just like in the U.S, but the holiday was then moved to October and it is now celebrated on the second Monday in October.
Families and friends generally gather for their Thanksgiving meal on any of the three days of the three-day weekend around this holiday so not necessarily on the Monday dedicated to this day.
Like other public holidays in Canada, many businesses and services are closed during this long weekend including, but not limited to, government offices, schools and banks.
In Quebec, Thanksgiving, also called in French action de grâce, is celebrated to a much lesser extent than in the rest of the country, given the Protestant origins of the holiday and since in this region people are mostly Catholic.
Although the party is still celebrated by the English-speaking population living in Quebec, fewer companies close that day.
Brief history of Canadian Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving party sanctioned by the government in Canada took place in November 1879, even though it was only in 1957 that the date was set for the second Monday of every October and declared a public national holiday.
The Canadian Thanksgiving’s roots are more remote than that and they go back to the seventeenth century, while the dinner party started being organized (although not every year) at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
It was organized for the first time by leaders of the Protestant clergy, who took possession of the American Thanksgiving parties and established it as a national day of public gratitude and prayer.
In Canada, the feast it was destined for the ‘public and solemn recognition of God's mercies.’
Although Thanksgiving is generally mostly believed to be an American celebration, it is believed that Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in memory of the first English settlers who landed in the lands of the New World and started living there thanks to the help of the Indians who had been living there for some time.
This event has been contested by some as ‘the very first Thanksgiving’ because thanksgiving was not to give thanks to a successful harvest but to thank God for being alive after a long and dangerous journey.
Black Friday in Canada
Traditionally, Canada did not have a big day dedicated to shopping and sales after Thanksgiving as the United States does but I was told that this has changed over the last few years, when stores in Canada started offering big discounts, especially for the upcoming Christmas holidays, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday gained momentum in Canada because it had been noted that Canadians would travel south of the border to make their purchases in the United States to take advantage of the big discounts for shopping, so the business owners in Canada decided to offer similar deals not lose their clients.
Although it is not as popular as in the United States, shopping centres in Canada open early in the morning and attract more buyers than usual around Canadian Thanksgiving day.
The biggest shopping day in Canada remains Boxing Day, on December 26th. It is the direct equivalent of the American Black Friday in terms of sales and it’s a true shopping event.
Canadians have copied many traditions from the American people such as to celebrate Thanksgiving with sumptuous banquets, in which the protagonist is the popular turkey, which is offered to neighbours and to needy people.
This is also an opportunity to wander through the streets dressed up for Christmas, looking for presents for relatives and friends.
There are many parades, events and concerts of all kinds that take place on every street in the country on this holiday weekend.
Other secular festivals in Canada include: Queen's Day, the third Monday in May; Québec’s National Day on June 24th; Foundation Day, the first Monday in August; the Day of the Commemoration, on November 11th; Canada Day, the first Monday in July; Labour Day, on May 1st; National Heritage Day, the first Monday in August and Discovery Day, the third Monday in August.
But those I will leave for another time!
I wish to thank my friend for the photos he offered to publish taken on Thanksgiving last year.
Thanksgiving cake with hockey theme
a day on the ice with friends on Thanksgiving
Pumpkin and potato mash on Thanksgiving