It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada!

Where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday that we were basking in the sun, enjoying summer. Now, the leaves have turned to brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange. Suddenly, the nights are cooler. Here in Eastern Ontario, many of us have started heating our homes in the evenings. Is there anything cosier than a fire on a cold night?

Thanksgiving in Canada

Thanksgiving in Canada really has nothing to do with pilgrims, Massachusetts, or Plymouth Rock. Those traditions belong to our neighbors to the south. That said, giving thanks has taken place in this country for centuries.

The First Nation of Turtle Island, the name they gave to North America, started it all. They had a celebration each fall to thank their gods for the harvest that would allow them to survive the winter. Among their traditions were feasting, prayers, dancing, potlatch, a gift-giving feast practiced by West-Coast tribes, and other ceremonies, depending on the tribes giving thanks.

Watercolor by James G. Swan depicting the Klallam people of chief Chetzemoka at Port Townsend, with one of Chetzemoka’s wives distributing potlatch

Europeans in Canada

When the European arrived in Canada, they had their own way of celebrating Thanksgiving. According to historical documents found in the Archives, the first to do so were Martin Frobisher and his men. In 1578, they gave thanks on the shores of Frobisher Bay, now the territory we call Nunavut. For the first celebration, the men dined on salt beef, biscuits, and mushy peas and thanked God through Communion for arriving safely in what Frobisher called Newfoundland.

Farther south, it wasn’t until November 14, 1606, that the French of New France, under Samuel de Champlain, feasted with the local Mi’kmaq tribe. The settlers didn’t know it, but the cranberries, rich in vitamin C, helped them avoid scurvy. They named the fruit was, petites pommes rouges (little red apples).From that day on, Champlain’s feasts became an annual affair.

Traditional Thanksgiving Turkey

Despite its unique history, Canada’s Thanksgiving was influenced by our American neighbors. The “traditional” meal of turkey, squash, and pumpkin pie was introduced in Halifax in the 1750s by the United Empire Loyalists. As they spread across Canada at the onset of the American Revolutionary war, they spread this “traditional” fare to other parts of the country. It has become the go-to meal for Christmas as well as other celebrations such as weddings.

On January 31, 1957, Canadian Parliament set aside the second Monday of October as our national day to give thanks. So, happy Canadian Thanksgiving to you.

So What Am I Grateful For?

In the midst of the pandemic, it might be hard to find something to be grateful for. Not for me. I’ve remained healthy thanks to the vaccine. No one close to me died of COVID. I’m thankful the ABB let me be part of this awesome group. I’m grateful for the ability to keep writing my stories, but most of all, I’m grateful to you, the readers, who read and enjoy my books.

There are a number of wonderful box sets available through the ABB that contain my books. The most recent one is Sweet & Sassy Falling into Love.

That’s it for me now. I’m off to gorge on turkey and dressing. Enjoy your Canadian Thanksgiving Day

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About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

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