When is Thanksgiving in Canada?
Here in the United States, Thanksgiving takes place at the same time each year, and the familiar sights and smells start beckoning us with our favorite Thanksgiving desserts, tablescape essentials like place cards, and Thanksgiving craft ideas we can handle. If you're like us, the countdown is on for the most food-filled holiday of the year—in between pumpkin farm visits and baking the best pie recipes, that is.
But while you're getting excited (and, if you've got any sense, stocking up on your favorite brand of stretchy pants), you're bound to start wondering about our neighbors up north. When do Canadians host their own Thanksgiving celebrations—and why? Are their annual festivities anything like our own? And does Canadian Thanksgiving feature a roast turkey as an edible centerpiece too?
As it turns out, there's a lot you might not know about Canadian Thanksgiving...beyond just its place on the calendar. Today, we're walking you through the facts so that you can wish your Canadian friends a happy, cozy celebration with confidence. Hold onto your (pilgrim) hats, light up your coziest seasonal candles, and get ready to learn!
When is Canadian Thanksgiving?
If you had a hunch that Canadian Thanksgiving might take place on a different date than American Thanksgiving, you're right. In fact, it doesn't even take place during the same month as our holiday.
As always, Thanksgiving in the U.S. is set to take place on the fourth Thursday in November this year (that's November 25, 2021, to you). But in Canada, it'll take place on Monday, October 11—a full month-and-a-bit before we get to sit down at our own tables. That's because Canadians traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.
Why is Thanksgiving in October in Canada?
Great question. When Canadian Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1879, November 6 was actually its official date. But in 1908, lobbyists (somewhat unofficially) moved it to a Monday in order to extend the weekend preceding it.
It wasn't until after World War I and II though that things got official. Whenever it was held slightly earlier in the month, the holiday would conflict with the newly created week of Remembrance Day (November 11 in Canada). So, on January 31, 1957, nearly 70 years after it was first introduced to the Canadian calendar, the Parliament of Canada announced that they would officially begin marking Thanksgiving annually on the second Monday in October.
Why is Canada's Thanksgiving different than the U.S. version of the holiday?
Well, for starters, Canada is a completely different country with its own customs, holidays, and traditions. And while modern-day Thanksgiving celebrations in both the U.S. and Canada may be influenced by each country's respective practices, the original Canadian Thanksgiving—also called "Action de Grâce" in Quebec—understandably had very little, if anything, to do with the U.S. version of the holiday.
In fact, the story of the first Thanksgiving that Americans know by heart might not mean very much at all to a Canadian. Their holiday's origin story involves explorer Martin Frobisher's own "thanks-giving" adventures, and it's believed to have taken place nearly 50 years earlier than the 1621 tale we were taught in grade school.
What do Canadians do on Thanksgiving?
Traditionally, the second Monday in October is viewed as a family-centric day during which a delicious meal is shared. Sound familiar? For the most part, Canadians treat their Thanksgiving celebrations in much the same way as we treat our own...but it's just not considered as big of a deal. Many Quebecois, for instance, don’t celebrate the holiday at all. There's also no Black Friday sale held the next day, and there's not quite as much interest in football (though the Canadian Football League does host a "Thanksgiving Day Classic" national TV special).
That doesn't mean Canadians don't commemorate the day at all though. In addition to the family meal, many families plan a hiking trip, a long walk, or a fall drive for the weekend preceding the holiday. After all, the weather in early fall is ideal. It may not be revered to the extent that it is here in the States, but it's still a special day.
What do Canadians eat on Thanksgiving?
There are plenty of similarities when it comes to the things that Americans and Canadians eat at their respective Thanksgivings. Stuffing, turkey, sweet potatoes, gravy, and squash are among the shared menu items, though some Canadians switch out the turkey for another meat. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served for dessert. The big difference is simply that the entire meal is more low-key.
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