In the United States, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year. But did you know that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, too? Here are a few of the key differences between American and Canadian Thanksgiving!
4 Ways Canadian Thanksgiving Differs From American Thanksgiving
Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving may look similar at first glance, but there are a few things that set these two fall festivities apart.
1. Canadian Thanksgiving is in October—and on a Monday
That’s right! Canadian Thanksgiving happens a full month and a half before American Thanksgiving, on the second Monday in October (Monday, October 11, 2021).
Since the beginning of the Thanksgiving holiday, its date has moved several times—from mid-week in April to a Thursday in November—until 1957, when the Canadian government officially declared that Thanksgiving would occur on the second Monday in October. This ensured that Thanksgiving and another Canadian holiday, Remembrance Day (November 11), would no longer overlap.
Today, Canadian Thanksgiving lines up with Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States, which are also held on the second Monday in October.
A serene autumn morning in Vancouver.
2. American and Canadian Thanksgiving Have Different (But Similar) Origins
Everyone seems to know the story of the first American Thanksgiving in 1621, but do you know how Canadian Thanksgiving came about? In fact, the first Canadian Thanksgiving may have even pre-dated the Pilgrims’ big meal.
The tradition of Thanksgiving originated with the harvest festival—an autumnal celebration meant to show appreciation for the bountiful harvest of the season. However, Canadian Thanksgiving was originally less about celebrating the harvest and more about thanking God for keeping early explorers safe as they ventured into the New World.
In that sense of “thanks-giving,” the earliest report of such a dinner dates back to 1578, when English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew held a special meal to thank God for granting them safe passage through northern North America, into what is today the Canadian Territory of Nunavut.
The first Thanksgiving after Canadian Confederation didn’t happen until April 1872, when the holiday was observed to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.
Today, the tradition of Thanksgiving has come full circle, and it’s primarily seen as a time to gather the family, mark the start of autumn, and celebrate the good food of the season.
Photo by Muskoka Stock Photos/Shutterstock.
3. Thanksgiving Is a Little More Low Key in Canada
Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year in the United States—with huge parades, massive feasts, and football—but it’s decidedly lower key in Canada. Although the holiday is still widely celebrated in Canada and is a statutory holiday in most of the country*, Canadians’ approach to Thanksgiving is a bit more laid back.
(*The exceptions are the Atlantic provinces, where the holiday is an optional day off, and in Quebec, where the holiday isn’t as popular overall.)
Thanksgiving in Canada involves families coming together to eat turkey and celebrate the harvest, but relatives don’t tend to travel as far across the country like they might in the United States. And because the holiday takes place in early October, the weather is usually still suitable for a Thanksgiving Day hike or vacation—a tradition that many Canadians readily take part in ahead of the long winter. Plus, because the holiday falls on a Monday, the Thanksgiving feast may instead take place on Saturday or Sunday.
Although you might expect hockey to take the place of traditional Thanksgiving Day football, football is part of Thanksgiving tradition in Canada, too. Each year, the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic double header is broadcast nationwide, wherein four teams from the CFL (Canadian Football League) play for Thanksgiving glory!
4. There’s No Huge Post-Thanksgiving Shopping Craze
Love them or hate them, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become a big part of the Thanksgiving season in the United States. In Canada, however, there’s no real post-Thanksgiving shopping craze, since Christmas is still so far off. This gives Canadians the chance to focus purely on celebrating the beauty of early October and the harvest!
That being said, no one can resist a good sale for long: in recent years, Canadian stores have started to participate in November’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too. Especially in 2020, with the surge in online shopping, retailers may seize any opportunity to promote consumer activity around the holidays.
In the end, no matter how, when, or where you celebrate it: Happy Thanksgiving!