history of canadian thanksgiving history of canadian thanksgiving

The Origins of Canadian Thanksgiving: 5 Fascinating Facts

Every year, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October. Like American Thanksgiving, the Canadian Thanksgiving is typically enjoyed by having feisty family dinners.

1. History of Canadian Thanksgiving: Some Interesting Facts

Historically Thanksgiving is associated with harvest festivals in many European countries. It was celebrated as a gesture of gratitude for the spirits for blessing the people with a bountiful harvest. After European settlers came to the continent of North America brought this beautiful tradition along.

history canadian thanksgiving
Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash /copyright 2019

Today, the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States is still associated with the harvest festival and is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November as per traditions. But though being right next to the United States, Canada has different thanksgiving dates. The difference lies in the interesting history of the Thanksgiving holiday on Canadian soil.

1.1. First Canadian Thanksgiving

Historically, the first Thanksgiving celebration on North American land took place in Canada. Martin Frobisher celebrated the first thanksgiving feast in 1578 in present-day Nunavut.

Little is known about the exact location of this first Thanksgiving meal, with some speculating it was held onboard a ship over Frobisher Bay. The English explorer Martin Frobisher had started his voyage with a fleet of fifteen ships loaded with men and materials in search of The Northwest Passage.

Frobisher and his crew had passed through sea storms and ice before reaching their final destination. After so many hardships, they were thankful for their safe arrival and decided to sit for dinner together to feast on biscuits and salt beef from their rations. This event is considered to be the first Thanksgiving in Canadian history. And this took place four decades before the first American Thanksgiving.

1.2. The Argumentized First Canadian Thanksgiving

While Frobisher’s feast is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving, many argue with this story. According to some people, the first Thanksgiving traditions as we know them today originated in 1604 by Samuel de Champlain.

history canadian thanksgiving
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay /copyright 2020

During this time, his settlement at Île Sainte-Croix faced a scurvy epidemic. To tackle the growing issue, he introduced the Ordre de Bon Temps (Order of Good Cheer) to provide the settlers with festive meals every few weeks to give nutrient-rich food to the common people to fight against scurvy. This effort by de Champlain is now considered the first act similar to today’s Thanksgiving dinner.

1.3. Traditional Thanksgiving Day

Traditionally Thanksgiving is associated with the fall harvest. The native Americans have been living on Canadian soil for years before the first coming of European settlers. They probably had their type of fall harvest festival to thank the spirits for a bountiful harvest.

The fall harvest in Canada usually comes around during the first week of October. Thus, the celebration of Thanksgiving in Canada during the first week of October is understandable.

1.4. Official Declaration of Thanksgiving Dates

Sometimes, it was celebrated more than once a year too. It was only in the year 1879 that Thanksgiving was proclaimed to be an annual official holiday.

Even after that, there was no fixed date for Thanksgiving in Canada. It was celebrated on different days, mostly on the second Monday in October. Finally, on January 31, 1957, Governor General Vincent Massey of the Canadian parliament proclaimed Thanksgiving would be celebrated annually on the second Monday of October.

1.5. The Other Occasional Thanksgiving Days

There have been several other Thanksgiving Day celebrations throughout Canadian history. Some of the notable ones are listed below.

  • After the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.
  • Upper and lower Canada had different Thanksgiving events in the nineteenth century. In 1886, after the end of the War of 1812, upper Canada celebrated their Thanksgiving on June 18 and lower Canada on May 21. 
  • After the end of the Civil War, lower Canada celebrated their own Thanksgiving in 1838.
  • Finally, after the unison of both lower and upper Canada, there were six different Thanksgiving events in the united territory between 1850 to 1865.
  • After the Confederation of Canadathe first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness. Confederation of Canada was the formation of the Dominion of Canada was formed by uniting the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick under one federation.
  • For some years after World War I, Canadian Thanksgiving was jointly celebrated with Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in the second week of November.

2. Is Thanksgiving a Holiday in Canada?

history candian thanksgiving
Image by ElasticComputeFarm from Pixabay /copyright 2016

Unlike its American counterpart, Canadian Thanksgiving is not a national holiday in Canada. While it is a statutory holiday in most territories, it is an optional holiday in the Atlantic provinces like Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and LabradorNova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Federal employees under the companies regulated by the federal government recognize Thanksgiving as a federal holiday.

Nevertheless, it is a national event, and most people like to settle down with their family members on this day.

3. How Canadians Enjoy Their Thanksgiving

Most Canadians do not celebrate this festival strictly on the designated date. Rather they celebrate on any of the days of the long Thanksgiving weekend starting from the Saturday of the previous week. Sunday is the most preferred day to celebrate by the majority of the Canadian population.

Then again, a few prefer celebrating the event throughout the long weekend. But irrespective of the day, Candian families come together for a family dinner with lots of delicacies on the table to jointly show their gratitude.

3.1. The Grounded Approach

The population’s celebration of Thanksgiving Day in Canada is quite grounded compared to that in America. Instead of extensively shopping and preparing for the holiday, they prefer sitting back to relax. There is rarely any extensive and grand celebration on this day. Sitting down in the comfort of their homes is what most people go for.

There are no big parades organized specifically for the general holiday. The events are mostly local and smaller. One exception to this is the nationally televised Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade. But this, too, is not solely organized for Thanksgiving alone.

Through the long weekend, many Canadians also like to go out for hiking trips or long strolls in the beautiful Canadian countryside.

3.2. The Love for Football

history canadian thanksgiving
Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash /copyright 2021

The love for the game of football is common between both Canada and America. Similar to America, football is associated with the Thanksgiving holiday too. On the second Monday in October, the Canadian Football League holds a nationwide televised football game, famously known as “The Thanksgiving Day Classic.

This is one of the only days in Canada when football games are organized in the afternoon. Thus, Thanksgiving Day without football seems incomplete. Watching football while having dinner with family is almost a ritual to enjoy and cherish on Thanksgiving in both countries.

4. What’s on The Menu?

Turkey is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Well, you are not wrong about that. Turkey has been the central entity of American Thanksgiving meals for so long that it is etched in everyone’s mind. You can pretty much call Thanksgiving Turkey Day.

history canadian thanksgiving
Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash /2020

Other than a roasted turkey, there are some more delicacies on the table of a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner too. There’s ham, pumpkin pie, vegetables from the fall harvest like squashes and brussels sprouts, and several types of desserts. Some households go for Tourtière, a Canadian dish that is a pastry pie filled with meat and mashed potatoes.

For dessert, you have a pumpkin pie or maple-kissed butter tarts. While pumpkin pies might be common in American and Canadian Thanksgiving feasts, interestingly, the Canadian one is a bit spicier than the other. It is typically so because of the extra flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger that add the extra punch of spice.

And as side dishes, you have sweet potatoes with marshmallows and lots of Canadian bacon.

5. Conclusion

Although Thanksgiving in Canada is not a national holiday, many Canadians enjoy this event with much love and eagerness. Irrespective of the origin of the holiday, Thanksgiving in all parts of the world is a festival of being thankful. Traditionally, it was for showing gratitude to the spirits and the almighty God, but now in the modern age, we can simply be grateful for our family and friends’ well-being.

The true spirit of a festival can only be felt when celebrated with our close ones, and being with family is what Thanksgiving in Canada stands for. The country is home to a diverse population from different ethnicities and witnesses uniquely different Thanksgiving celebrations as per the traditions of different communities.

Last Updated on by Suchi


  1. The article clearly explain thanks giving holiday in Canada,also give history of holiday how people celebrate it awesome to read it…

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