Thanksgiving Canada

October 8, 2012 by  

Thanksgiving Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated in both Canada and America with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings. Thanksgiving looks much the same on either side of the border. In both the United States and Canada relatives come together around an excess of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie. Small children must endure kisses from creepy aunts, adults lucky enough not to be cooking bring a gift of wine or perhaps dessert, and talk centres on family lore.

But the roots of Thanksgiving diverge. In Canada they run deeper, for one thing, further back in the past than in the U.S. They don’t have the same association with tragedy. And our initial Thanksgiving didn’t include a sizzling turkey. In fact, in retrospect, that original meal doesn’t seem appetizing at all.

Salt beef served with rock-hard crackers and mushy peas. Seconds, anyone? It wasn’t much of a feast, but that’s what Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew had in their larder for the first Thanksgiving meal on what would be Canadian soil. After voyaging to Baffin Island they held a ceremony in 1578 to thank God for their safe arrival. And it came 43 years before the Pilgrims in Plymouth held their better-publicized Thanksgiving.

Samuel de Champlain beat the Pilgrims, too, in the Thanksgiving sweepstakes. Starting in 1604, he began a custom of celebrating the harvest with annual feasts in New France. The Pilgrims came limping into the game in 1621. And the festival in the United States is marred by the subsequent destruction of the aboriginal people who had helped to feed the Pilgrims when they first arrived.

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way,” quips U.S. comedian Jon Stewart. “I invited everyone in my neighbourhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”

Canadian Thanksgiving doesn’t bear that unhappy footnote.

Although we got an early start compared to the Pilgrims, we can’t claim ownership of the entire concept of a harvest celebration. Indeed, people come together to share nature’s bounty all over the world, in countless festivals bearing different names. And they’ve likely been doing so since the first farmer planted a crop and was grateful to reap a return.

Canadians are unique, however, in that we have so much reason to give thanks. Our country enjoys an exceptionally high standard of living, even in these uncertain economic times. From sea to sea, our relatively small population straddles a land blessed with natural wonders and brimming with potential wealth. We have a health-care system that, despite some flaws, serves us well. And we’ve built a safe, tolerant nation where people of all origins and religions live side by side in remarkable peace.

That’s no reason for complacency. We number among the luckiest people on the planet but there are still those among us who are denied a full share of Canada’s bounty. Poverty remains a nagging problem. Thousands remain homeless even amid all our wealth. Many more balance on the edge of ruin, barely able to meet their basic needs. The aboriginal population is especially hard-pressed. While Canada’s record in dealing with First Nations isn’t as grim as that of the U.S., we have no cause for pride here. Indeed, it’s a lingering source of shame.

Canadians’ great good fortune warrants heartfelt thanks. But beyond counting our blessings, let’s share them. Give to the charity of your choice, whether it’s your local United Way, a food bank, a church, an international relief organization or simply a neighbour in need of a helping hand. True gratitude isn’t just declared in words; it means most when expressed through action.

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