Celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada!

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Thanksgiving Day in Canada has been a holiday on the second Monday of October since 1957. It is a chance for people to give thanks for a good harvest and other fortunes in the past year.

What do people do?

Many people have a day off work on the second Monday of October. They often use the three-day Thanksgiving weekend to visit family or friends who live far away, or to receive them in their own homes. Many people also prepare a special meal to eat at some point during the long weekend. Traditionally, this included roast turkey and seasonal produce, such as pumpkin, corn ears and pecan nuts. Now, the meal may consist of other foods, particularly if the family is of non-European descent.

The Thanksgiving weekend is also a popular time to take a short autumn vacation. This may be the last chance in a while for some people to use cottages or holiday homes before winter sets in. Other popular activities include: outdoor breaks to admire the spectacular colors of the Canadian autumn; hiking; and fishing. Fans of the teams in the Canadian Football League may spend part of the weekend watching the Thanksgiving Day Classic matches.

 

Public life

Thanksgiving Day is national public holiday in Canada. Many people have the day off work and all schools and post offices are closed. Many stores and other businesses and organizations are also closed. Public transport services may run to a reduced timetable or may not run at all.

Whilst Thanksgiving Day is holiday at a national level, it is not considered among the list of paid public holidays in New Brunswick under New Brunswick’s Employment Standards Act.

 

Background

The native peoples of the Americas held ceremonies and festivals to celebrate the completion and bounty of the harvest long before European explorers and settlers arrived in what is now Canada. Early European thanksgivings were held to give thanks for some special fortune. An early example is the ceremony the explorer Martin Frobisher held in 1578 after he had survived the long journey in his quest to find a northern passage from Europe to Asia.

Many thanksgivings were held following noteworthy events during the 18th century. Refugees fleeing the civil war in the United States brought the custom of an annual thanksgiving festival to Canada. From 1879, Thanksgiving Day was held every year but the date varied and there was a special theme each year. The theme was the “Blessings of an abundant harvest” for many years. However, Queen Victoria’s golden and diamond jubilees and King Edward VII’s coronation formed the theme in later years.

From the end of the First World War until 1930, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day were celebrated on the Monday closest to November 11, the anniversary of the official end of hostilities in World War I. In 1931, Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving Day was moved to a Monday in October. Since 1957, Thanksgiving Day has always been held on the second Monday in October.

 

Symbols

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. This represents the “Horn of Plenty“, which was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in most jurisdictions of Canada, with the exceptions being the Atlantic provinces of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, where it is an optional holiday. Companies that are regulated by the federal government (such as those in the telecommunications and banking sectors) recognize the holiday regardless of its provincial status.

As a liturgical festival, Thanksgiving corresponds to the English and continental European Harvest festival, with churches decorated with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves, and other harvest bounty, English and European harvest hymns sung on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and scriptural selections drawn from biblical stories relating to the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

While the actual Thanksgiving holiday is on a Monday, Canadians may gather for their Thanksgiving feast on any day during the long weekend, with Saturday being the least common. Thanksgiving in Canada is also often a time for weekend getaways.

Though the holiday enjoys statutory status in Quebec, French-speaking Québécois do not typically consider it an important holiday and think of it as simply a day off, like Labour Day. It is common for people to take a weekend getaway to nearby tourist spots or, for those who have cottages, Thanksgiving is the last long-weekend they have to enjoy the cottage before closing it up for the winter. In any case, a festive meal with turkey and all the trimmings is customary.

Incidentally, Canadian Thanksgiving coincides with the U.S. observance of Columbus Day and has done so since the United States implemented the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971 (most countries in the Western Hemisphere fix Columbus Day to October 12). As such, American towns with high levels of Canadian tourism will often hold their fall festivals over Thanksgiving/Columbus Day weekend in part to draw and accommodate Canadian tourists. Border towns also often experience an uptick in shoppers at grocery stores, as Canadian shoppers take advantage of lower taxes and commodity prices in the United States over the long holiday.
 
Celebrating 100 great recipes – HERE.
 

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Celebrate this Thanksgiving!

 

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