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Friday, December 8, 2023

Thanksgiving, Eh?

November 17, 2022
Garrett Christensen

The Mysteries of Canadian Thanksgiving Revealed

Garrett Christensen

When most people think of Thanksgiving, they picture the beloved American holiday. However, Canadians have their own rich Thanksgiving tradition and history.

Canadian finance major Luke Ganson said that the way Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated is pretty similar to the United States. “Usually what happens is we have a bunch of family over and spend time and share a meal together.” [1] Candian Thanksgiving occurs on the second Monday in October. Ganson said that “the feel of Thanksgiving is in some areas a little warmer so it’s like fall is just starting basically, not in the middle of fall. And then you’re not having Christmas vibes mixed up with it. It’s very much its own separate thing.” [2]

Ganson has lived mostly in the states for the last three years and had an opportunity to celebrate both versions of the holiday. When asked which he likes better, Ganson replied, “As a sports fan, I kind of enjoy having a sporting event be around that time of year.” American football traditionally has three football games scheduled for Thanksgiving Day. [3] Overall, he thinks the two holidays are “very, very similar” and the “tradition of trying to remember to be grateful and be thankful for all you have” is the most important aspect of both. [4]

Both holidays also have their share of unique traditions within families. American biology premed major Carly Haeger said, “My family has a ceramic duck-shaped dish with a lid that’s

painted like a duck, and every Thanksgiving my grandma puts some sort of food in it, and we guess what’s in it before we eat Thanksgiving dinner.” [5]

For some students, Thanksgiving is also a time to eat traditional foods from their culture. Ganson’s family is partially Ukrainian, and they celebrate by eating traditional dishes like naleśniki and nachynka. [6] Canadian Thanksgiving itself had a long and complex journey to becoming a national holiday. As the story goes, the first time it was celebrated was in 1578 by explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher wanted to give thanks for a safe voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland. This Thanksgiving celebration happened 43 years before the first American Thanksgiving in Plymouth. 48 years later, Samuel De Champlain held feasts in New France with the Mi’kmaq tribe, similar to the ones held by the Pilgrims in America. [7]

However, modern Canadian practices have been influenced significantly by their American neighbors. Americans loyal to England fled to Canada during the American Revolution and brought their traditional Thanksgiving foods with them: turkey, squash, and pumpkin. [8]

As Thanksgiving grew in popularity in Canada, it officially became a national holiday in 1879. It was originally celebrated on November 6. However, that date was changed in 1957 to the second Monday in October to coincide with the end of harvest and to not conflict with Remembrance Day (another important Candian holiday). [9]

Now that the mysteries of Canadian Thanksgiving are revealed, go ask your Canadian friends what they think of the holiday and make sure they feel included during our Thanksgiving as well.



1. Interview with Luke Ganson, 11/8/2022.

2-4. Ibid.

5. Interview with Carly Haeger, 11/9/2022.

6. Interview with Luke Ganson, 11/8/2022.

7. Nagy, A. (2018). The history of Thanksgiving in Canada.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

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