When I think of Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, turkey, pumpkin pie, and the beginning of autumn.
As Canadians, a lot of us believe our American neighbours to the south celebrate it in November because harvest time arrives later than ours. That we’re merely copy-cats eating our bounty before it freezes over.
Not true! In fact, Canadians began celebrating Thanksgiving in 1578, 40 forty years before the pilgrims sat down to their first turkey leg.
British explorer Martin Frobisher celebrated Thanksgiving in Newfoundland, not for the fall’s harvest, but for surviving his trip to the Arctic.
The American tradition began in 1621 in Massachusetts with the pilgrims celebrating their good crop and being thankful to the Wampanoag indigenous people who saved the first settlers from starvation, and for having enough food to survive the upcoming winter.
On December 26th, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt made Thanksgiving official, signing into law a bill designating the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday.
In Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday became law on January 31, 1957, when Governor-General Vincent Massey proclaimed “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.”
While it arrives at different times, both Canadians and Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with the same spirit of gratefulness and appreciation.