The first official, annual Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated on 6 November 1879, though Indigenous peoples in Canada have a history of celebrating the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew are credited as the first Europeans to celebrate a Thanksgiving ceremony in North America, in 1578. They were followed by the inhabitants of New France under Samuel de Champlainin 1606.
The celebration featuring the uniquely North American turkey, squash and pumpkin was introduced to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and became more common across Canada by the 1870s. In 1957, Thanksgiving was proclaimed an annual event to occur on the second Monday of October. It is an official statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The first national Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated in the Province of Canada in 1859. Organized at the behest of leaders of the Protestant clergy — who appropriated the holiday of American Thanksgiving, first observed in 1777 and established as a national day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789 — the holiday was intended for the “public and solemn” recognition of God’s mercies. As historian Peter Stevens has noted, some citizens “objected to this government request, saying it blurred the distinction between church and state that was so important to many Canadians.”
Thanksgiving is an official statutory holiday in all provinces and territories except PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. It is called L’Action de Grâce in Québec and is celebrated to a much lesser extent there than in the rest of the country, given the holiday’s Protestant origins and Anglo-nationalist associations. The main differences among the other provinces tend to concern the dishes that are served with the meal. For example, Jiggs’ dinner is often preferred over turkey in Newfoundland. Pumpkin pie is a common dessert nationally, but there are also regional favourites, such as Nanaimo bars in BC, butter tarts in Ontario and cranberry pie in New Brunswick.
©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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