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Canadian Thanksgiving and how it differs from the American one

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

We international students probably have only “experienced” Thanksgiving through TV. Watching Friends or any of those classic sitcoms where they always have one or multiple Thanksgiving episodes. However, most of those are based on American Thanksgiving! But, just in case you didn’t know, Canada has its own Thanksgiving celebration, and it does have its differences.

Here are some facts about it:

1. Canadian Thanksgiving happens in October—and on a Monday

Unlike their neighbours to the south, Canadian Thanksgiving occurs a full month and a half before American Thanksgiving, and it happens on the second Monday of October. Monday, October 10th, in this case (2022). And it actually started 40 years before the American one!

Canadian Thanksgiving is a harvest celebration centred on gratitude for what you have. Whether that be some food on your plate, the company you surround yourself with, or anything else that brings you joy, it is a time of reflection and happiness.

2. Canadian and American Thanksgiving have different origins, yet similar dishes!

Most people kinda have an idea of what the American Thanksgiving is about, mostly thanks to Hollywood. It has something to do with some colonials and natives sharing a meal, right? In fact, the first Canadian Thanksgiving may have even pre-dated the Pilgrims’ big meal.

The tradition of Thanksgiving originated with a harvest festival, a celebration that occurred in Fall meant to show appreciation for a productive harvest during that season. However, Canadian Thanksgiving was originally less about celebrating the actual harvest and more about giving thanks to God for keeping early explorers safe in their ventures to the new world.

Since then, Canadian Thanksgiving has changed plenty of times, both when it comes to the motives of the celebration and the date on which it occurred. However, today, the tradition of Thanksgiving has come to a full circle. It’s primarily seen as a time to gather the family, mark the start of Fall, and celebrate the harvest and good food of the season.

Of course, probably the most essential part of this holiday is the family dinner that comes with it. Thanksgiving dinner is a must in Canada, but what dishes do they enjoy during this dinner?

  • Classic Stuffed Turkey!

  • Sweet Potato Yams

  • Mashed Potatoes

  • Mac & Cheese

  • Pecan or Pumpkin Pie!

3. Canadian Thanksgiving Is a little bit more low-key

For the U.S, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year, and they do celebrate by doing huge parades and massive feasts. They have football matches because of it and so on. But, in Canada, it is way more subtle than that. Although the holiday is still widely celebrated in Canada and is a statutory holiday in most of the country, with the exception of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, as it is optional. Canadians’ approach to Thanksgiving is a little more laid back.

In Canada, the Great White North, this holiday involves families coming together to eat some traditional dishes and have a great dinner. Still, relatives don’t tend to travel as far across the country to spend the holiday together as they might do 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 take place on Saturday or Sunday instead.

Although you might expect hockey to take the place of traditional Thanksgiving Day football, football is also part of the Thanksgiving tradition in Canada. Each year, the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic doubleheader is broadcast nationwide. Four teams from the CFL (Canadian Football League) play for Thanksgiving glory!

4. There’s no huge Post-Thanksgiving shopping obsession

Whether you love them or hate them, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become a big part of the Thanksgiving season in the United States, and they are the perfect representation of their consumerism-based economy. In Canada, however, there’s no real post-Thanksgiving shopping trend since Christmas is still so far off. This gives Canadians the opportunity to purely focus on celebrating the beauty of early October and what the Fall season brings with it!

That being said, and with no more to add… no matter how, when, or where you celebrate it: Happy Thanksgiving from the Thrivve team!

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