In Ottawa, on 31 January, 1957, Canada’s Parliament proclaimed:
“A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”
So since 1957, the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Thanksgiving Day in Canada. But that was hardly the beginning of the holiday. Most Canadians are descended from the British, French and other Europeans. The first Canadians were farmers, and the success of the harvest meant the difference between life and death. Like their European forefathers, Canadian farmers celebrated the Harvest and gave thanks to their Creator for His blessings.
The Europeans usually called their celebrations ‘Harvest Festivals’ and celebrated after the crops were gathered and stored. In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times.
The French who settled in Quebec had a great feast to give thanks called “The Order of Good Cheer”.
The first Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1579 in New Foundland, forty-two years before the United States first celebrated in 1621. English explorer Martin Frobisher started the tradition during his first stay in New Foundland, at the settlement he helped to establish.
Although the Thanksgiving Holiday is on a Monday every year, many Canadians have their Thanksgiving Dinner during the weekend on Saturday or Sunday. And what is served? A typical meal includes:
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Hot Rolls and Butter
Fruits and Nuts
Mince Meat Pie
And the list goes on.
Many have asked why Canadian Thanksgiving Day is in October rather than November, like in the United States. The reason is simple. Canada is north of the United States and Spring comes later and Autumn comes sooner. The harvest also comes sooner, so the Harvest Festivals, from which Thanksgiving Day originated, come sooner as well.
Strangely enough, not all Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island do not hold it as a Statutory Holiday. I guess it’s their loss.