Eat, Drink and Be Merry! Give Thanks and Gobble On!
Thanksgiving is an important time of year when we reflect, take stock and give thanks for everything we have. More than eating a large turkey, there are unique differences in the customs and traditions of Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada. These two neighboring countries also share similarities in their Thanksgiving celebrations known to many as “Turkey Day”.
Who doesn’t love good food and company? The Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful weekend to spend with family and friends regardless of location. Here’s a short summary of how Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States and Canada.
1. Date of Celebration
Thanksgiving is an annual holiday in America taking place on the fourth Thursday of November with Canadian Thanksgiving taking place on the second Monday of October. It is observed as a national holiday in all 50 states of the United States and is a statutory holiday observed in Canada with exception to the Maritime provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island).
2. Historical Origins
Thanksgiving in America was first held in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims to give thanks for a bountiful harvest after the Wampanoag Native Americans aided them in growing crops and cultivating the land upon their discovery of the New World. The Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag to their feast and over 90 people attended with their families.
The first Canadian Thanksgiving was held by English explorer, Martin Frobisher in 1578 after his expedition’s attempts to find a Northwest Passage to the Orient. Although he failed to charter the desired route, he established a settlement somewhere along what is now called Newfoundland and gave thanks for a safe journey with a dedicated day of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in the United States stems from tribute to the Pilgrims and the generosity of the Wampanoag Native Americans while Thanksgiving in Canada is rooted in giving thanks for a plentiful harvest.
3. Food Tradition
In the United States, Thanksgiving meals typically include a turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, casseroles, sweet corn, pumpkin pie and turkey stuffing. Similarly, the Thanksgiving meal traditionally in Canada includes a roasted turkey, sweet corn, mashed and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, baked ham and pumpkin or apple pie.
The Thanksgiving meal is traditionally held on the Thursday in the United States whereas the feast in Canada can be celebrated on Sunday or Monday.
4. Holiday Festivities
Thanksgiving in America has traditionally been celebrated with large parades (e.g. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, America’s Thanksgiving Parade, etc.), American football on Thanksgiving Day and “Black Friday” deals at malls and retail outlets.
As for Canada, Thanksgiving is commemorated with smaller local parades (e.g. Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, etc.) and a nationally televised Canadian football doubleheader known as the “Thanksgiving Day Classic.” It is worth noting that Canadian Thanksgiving is not as strongly associated with shopping deals as it is with Thanksgiving in the United States.