How we came to celebrate our Canadian Thanksgiving Day


Turkey Day. That’s delicious time of year also known as Thanksgiving Day. A time of year when family and friends gather and eat a guilt-free amount of food for which we are truly thankful.  But how did Thanksgiving Day really start and was there even a turkey?

Thankful to have made the trip alive

An English explorer by the name of Martin Frobisher, who is in no way related to Christopher Columbus but was equally successful in not finding his way to the Orient, successfully established a settlement in North America.

The originally journey was undertaken with only three small 20 ton wooden ships that held a combined crew of 35 men. Only one of the ships survived the two thousand miles of unforgiving ocean peppered with ice and storms. Frobisher would make this journey and the returning voyage two more times. A feat certainly to be celebrated and Frobisher thought so too.

In 1578 Frobisher held a ceremony in what is now Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving their long journeys. This day is acknowledged to be the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Future settlers arriving to Canada soon after would continue this tradition of thanks.

Thankful to get along with the neighbours

French settlers arriving in Canada with explorer and founder of New France and Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, had a very similar appreciation of their own survival and also held huge feasts of thanks.

At the time scurvy was believed to be caused by idleness, so Champlain built upon these festivities by also adding active entertainment and calling the event “The Order of Good Cheer”, which first took place on November 14, 1606.

“These feasts were often attended by Indians of all ages and both sexes, sometimes twenty or thirty being present. The Sagamore, or chief, Membertou, the greatest Sagamore of the land, and other chiefs, when there, were treated as guests and equals.” –  Marc Lescarbot, a Parisian lawyer and poet who recorded the first account of The Order of Good Cheer.

After the Seven Year’s War ended between the English and the French in 1763, the citizens of Halifax started to hold a special day of thanks as well.

Thankful to loyalists and the arrival of an important ‘guest’ to the meal

Americans who remained loyal to England during the American Revolution moved to Canada bringing their own traditions with them. These traditions included the continued harvest celebration, later recognized as the American Thanksgiving, originally shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony. There were already many similarities between the two festivals including the cornucopia and pumpkin pie. There was however one item missing from the Canadian festivities.

‘The First Thanksgiving’ at Plymouth Colony was held in 1621, 43 years after Martin Frobisher’s celebration, but the feast did include a very familiar and important item. William Bradford, Plymouth Colony Governor wrote, “besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” Although it wasn’t the centerpiece of the meal, the turkey quickly took prominence in the feast that followed as time went on.

Thankful to celebrate Thanksgiving Day

In 1879, Canadian Parliament made November 6 a national holiday and called it Thanksgiving Day.

After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day were celebrated on the first Monday after November 11.

In 1931 the two days were separated and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.

On January 31, 1957 Parliament declared, “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Whether it be a time to eat, a time to spend with family or a time to rest, Thanksgiving Day is simply a wonderful time of year to stop and remember all the things we are truly thankful for.

Source / Credit:

There are no comments

Thank you! Your comment has been submitted and is awaiting approval.

Blog Archives