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Thanksgiving (Canada)

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Thanksgiving (Canada)

Shopping for pumpkins for Thanksgiving in Ottawa's Byward Market
Observed by Canada
Type Cultural
Significance A celebration of being thankful for what one has and the bounty of the previous year.
Celebrations Spending Time with Family, feasting, religious practice
Date Second Monday in October
2014 date October 13  (2014-10-13)
2015 date October 12  (2015-10-12)
2016 date October 10  (2016-10-10)
2017 date October 9  (2017-10-09)
Frequency annual

Thanksgiving (French: Action de grâce), or Thanksgiving Day (Jour de l'action de grâce), occurring on the second Monday in October, is an annual Canadian holiday which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

On Thursday, January 31, 1957, the Parliament of Canada proclaimed:

Traditional celebration

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.[2] 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.[3][4][5][6][7]

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.

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. Foods traditionally served at Thanksgiving include roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, various fall vegetables (mainly various kinds of squashes but also Brussels sprouts), and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving in Canada is also often a time for weekend getaways.

Traditions such as parades can be a part of Thanksgiving in Canada. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade is the most widely known Thanksgiving Day parade in Canada, and is broadcast nationwide on CTV. The Canadian Football League holds a nationally televised doubleheader, the Thanksgiving Day Classic. It is one of two weeks in which the league plays on Monday afternoons, the other being the Labour Day Classic. Unlike the Labour Day games, the teams that play on the Thanksgiving Day Classic vary each year.

Though the holiday enjoys statutory status in Quebec, French-speaking Quebecers 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.[8]

Incidentally, Canadian Thanksgiving coincides with the U.S. observance of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples' 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.[9] 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.[10]


Canadian troops attend a Thanksgiving service in the bombed-out Cambrai Cathedral, in France in October 1918

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England in search of the Northwest Passage. His third voyage, to the Frobisher Bay area of Baffin Island in the present Canadian Territory of Nunavut, set out with the intention of starting a small settlement. His fleet of 15 ships was outfitted with men, materials, and provisions. However, the loss of one of his ships through contact with ice along with much of the building material was to prevent him from doing so. The expedition was plagued by ice and freak storms which at times had scattered the fleet and on meeting together again at their anchorage in Frobisher Bay, "... Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places ...". They celebrated Communion and "The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ's name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters."[11]

Frobisher returned to England in the fall of the year with over a thousand tons of what he thought was precious gold ore which turned out to be totally worthless, and minus "fortie", or about ten percent of his ships' complement "which number is not great, considering how many ships were in the fleet, and how strange fortunes we passed."

The exact locations of Frobisher’s activities remained a bit of a mystery until the discoveries of the American explorer Charles Francis Hall in Baffin Island nearly three centuries later in 1861.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1604 onwards also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and gladly shared their food with their First Nations neighbours.

After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.[12] After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.[13]

Lower Canada and Upper Canada observed Thanksgiving on different dates; for example, in 1816 both celebrated Thanksgiving for the termination of the war between France and Great Britain, the former on May 21 and the latter on June 18.[12] In 1838, Lower Canada used Thanksgiving to celebrate the end of the Lower Canada Rebellion.[12] Following the rebellions, the two Canadas were merged into a united Province of Canada, which observed Thanksgiving six times from 1850 to 1865.[12]

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.[14]

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year, the date initially being a Thursday in November.[15] The date of celebration changed several times until, in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October.[14] The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed each year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In its early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.[12]

After World War I, an amendment to the Armistice Day Act established that Armistice Day and Thanksgiving would, starting in 1921, both be celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred.[14] Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays, and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day. From 1931 to 1957, the date was set by proclamation, generally falling on the second Monday in October, except for 1935, when it was moved due to a general election.[12][14] In 1957, Parliament fixed Thanksgiving as the second Monday in October.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Kelch, Kalie. Grab Your Boarding Pass. Review & Herald Publishing Association. p. 12.  
  2. ^ "Statutory Holidays in Canada". Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  3. ^ "Paid public holidays". 
  4. ^ "Thanksgiving - is it a Statutory Holiday?". Government of Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  5. ^ "Statutes, Chapter E-6.2" (PDF). Government of Prince Edward Island. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  6. ^ "RSNL1990 Chapter L-2 - Labour Standards Act". Assembly of Newfoundland. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  7. ^ "Statutory Holidays" (PDF). Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Canada. 
  8. ^ « L'action de grâces » In this 2011 radio program, a journalist introduces Quebec listeners to the English-Canadian tradition of a festive turkey meal at Thanksgiving :
  9. ^ Tokasz, Jay (October 12, 2013). Ellicottville’s four-season appeal is welcomed by most, but not all, residents. The Buffalo News. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  10. ^ Raguse, Lou (October 14, 2013). Canadian Thanksgiving brings shoppers. WIVB-TV. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  11. ^ The three voyages of Martin Frobisher: in search of a passage to Cathai and India by the northwest AD 1576-1578. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Proclamation and Observance of General Thanksgiving Days and reasons therefore.".  
  13. ^ Solski, Ruth. Canada's Traditions and Celebrations. On the Mark Press. p. 12.  
  14. ^ a b c d e "Canadian Heritage - Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day". Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  15. ^ "Canadian Thanksgiving Day History". Retrieved 2012-11-17. 

External links

  • "Thanksgiving" Encyclopædia Britannica
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