Canadian Thanksgiving

October 7, 2017

Our Canadian Thanksgiving holiday is here, and while this may seem odd to my American neighbours, this is yet another subtle difference between our two common cultures.

 

This past year I discovered that I descend from some of the original Pilgrim's that came over to Massachusetts as part of the great Puritan migration (1620-1640) which came as a surprise to me and my family. Growing up in Canada, we learned about the Pilgrim's through cartoon specials such as Charlie Brown, but I never for a moment thought that my family would have taken part in that aspect of American history.

 

In Canada Thanksgiving has been established as a national holiday since November 6, 1879 while the US has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1864. Both countries had loosely held Thanksgiving feasts, but were not formally organized into national holidays until these dates. One thing that both countries had in mind with creating a national Thanksgiving holiday was to unify their respective countries and people.

 

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the origin of the first North American Thanksgiving, but in the US the most well-known story is that of the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, MA in 1621. This is the story that is most commonly taught and which children learn through TV specials. Even in Canada, Thanksgiving is often associated with the Pilgrim's, Plymouth Rock and the friendly Native American, Squanto, who helped the Pilgrim's survive their first harsh winter here in the New World.

 

Canada's Thanksgiving history is more of a mystery. Although I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family, I don't recall ever being taught in school how our Thanksgiving came about. There is really very little difference in how Canadians and Americans celebrate our Thanksgivings - we both eat turkey, ham, yams, potatoes, gravy, etc. - and we celebrate with friends and family, but in Canada the event is more low-key than in the US. Our American cousins treat this national holiday with a reverence that we Canadians seem to hold only for Christmas. In fact, in the US, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is considered even more important than Christmas as it celebrates the birth of their great nation.

 

From a nation-building standpoint, the US Thanksgiving holiday is an absolute success. In Canada, maybe not so much, but it is still a holiday that is revered and one which all Canadians look forward to each October. 

 

Although Canadians and Americans may celebrate our Thanksgiving holidays at different times, the holiday is still one which brings together friends and family. It is a time when friends and family gather together to share sumptuous meals and to give thanks for all that we have. It is a time that builds memories for the future and a time for reflection of our past.

 

Discovering that my paternal ancestors, who were Pilgrim's, make up part of the American Thanksgiving tradition, gives this shared holiday special meaning this year. No longer are the images of the Pilgrim's in Massachusetts in the 1600's merely figures from history, they are part of MY history.

 

© 2016 Peanuts Worldwide LLC

 

 

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