To Northern Neighbors

This weekend includes the observance of Thanksgiving in Canada so to my Canadian friends and readers I extend my wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

For centuries before any Europeans arrived in North America numerous First Nations [I like that Canadian term more than the one now commonly used in the United States] observed a fall feast of thanksgiving for good hunting and good crops. Both in England and on the European continent harvest festivals were commonly observed. The first recorded Thanksgiving observed by Europeans in North America occurred in 1578 when the explorer Martin Frobisher did it. “Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places, . . . . They celebrated Communion . . . The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters” according to a period writer.

The several provinces developed periodic observances as European settlers expanded across the beautiful Canadian frontier. After Canadian Confederation the first Thanksgiving Day was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness. Beginning with Thanksgiving Day in 1879, the holiday was observed every year, but the date was initially a Thursday in November. The date of celebration changed several times until, in 1957, Canada’s Parliament officially declared it to be the second Monday in October.

One Canadian writer described the traditions of the day. “Most families in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving with a special dinner for family and friends. The dinner usually includes a roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to look at pioneer life, and it is an ideal time to celebrate the importance of Canadian farmers for all Canadians. Many families use to have special meal, and go around the table expressing their thankfulness for during the past year. It is a special day for children to spend with their Canadian grandparents, and to appreciate the abundance in everyone’s lives. Many friends and family members use to get together to convey their thankfulness for the past year.”

1916 postcard of the railroad statiion in North Toronto

Because I have English blood in my veins through my father [Saxon blood, mind you– my foremothers and forefathers were there well before the Normans crossed the Channel], I happily join two of my dearest friends in Toronto to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” and “God save the Queen!”

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  • Suzannah Tilton & Virginia Mollenkott  On October 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Yes, First Nations imples a respect that citizens of the U.S. rarely extend. Thanks for this history of Canadian Thanksgiving. Virginia Mollenkott

  • tkmorin  On October 10, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Thank you for the article. Very interesting! I enjoyed the read very much.

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