Taylor excitedly throwing her arms up surrounded by leaves with the words, "Happy Thanksgiving!" overhead.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving 101

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Or, is it Merry Thanksgiving…? Whatever the case, I wish you all a wonderful day and hope your day is spent with your family eating lots of food. That’s certainly what I will be doing this Thanksgiving!

However you’re planning on spending the day, whether that be with your family, your friends, or with a serving of turkey for one, it’s important to understand how Thanksgiving came to be in Canada.

The word, "Thankful" spelled out in golden letters with little accent pumpkins and leaves surrounding the word.

History of Thanksgiving

The first official Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 6th in 1879 as a means of giving thanks to the past season’s harvest, although the Indigenous peoples of Canada have been celebrating the fall harvest since before the European settlers arrived. The first Thanksgiving celebration in North America is often credited to have been celebrated by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in 1578, although it wasn’t until 1957 that Thanksgiving was proclaimed an official holiday in Canada to be held on the second Monday of every October! But, I guess when I say official, I should say almost official… Unfortunately for those people living on the east coast of Canada in the Maritimes, Thanksgiving isn’t considered a national statutory holiday. This means that while the majority of Canadians get to enjoy their Monday off, Canadians who live in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island are still required to go to work.

I guess somebody has to keep the country running smoothly! Thank you, Maritimes.

A table with many different maps strewn out across it.

Thanksgiving Dinner

When Sir Martin Frobisher arrived, their Thanksgiving dinner was hardly, well, hearty. They ate salt beef, biscuits, and mushy peas to celebrate their safe arrival in Nunavut, and all I have to say is that I’m thankful we transitioned over to turkey. Although, I guess when you’re thankful to be safely on solid ground after sailing for so long, any food would be a blessing. 

Alongside the traditional turkey dinner, we eat a handful of other delicious foods on Thanksgiving, such as mashed potatoes, yams, roasted vegetables, brussel sprouts, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and more.

I think I just heard my stomach growl… Remind me not to write an article about food on an empty stomach!

A meal including many different foods traditionally eaten on Thanksgiving, such as roast ham, pumpkin pie, mashed potatos, and more.

The Purpose of Thanksgiving

The purpose of Thanksgiving has changed a lot overtime since it came into existence, with the initial significance of the holiday being religiously motivated as a means of recognizing God’s mercies. In 1872, the significance changed again, with the holiday being celebrated as a national civic holiday rather than a religious one in commemoration of the Prince of Wales’ recovery from an illness he had been battling. 

It seems to me like these guys just really wanted to celebrate something, no matter the occasion!

Eventually, the Canadian Parliament decided for the unifying theme of simply giving thanks to become the core purpose of Thanksgiving. This is how we celebrate Thanksgiving to this day, by spending time with our families and being thankful for everything in our lives, such as the food we get to eat, the roof over our heads, and whatever else you’re thankful for!

The word, "Thank You" spelled out in wooden blocks with a heart in the middle.

Personally, I am thankful to live in Canada, have the opportunity to go to University, be a part of the Canada International Student Magazine family, and most importantly, I am thankful for my family and my friends. I encourage everyone to reflect on what they’re thankful for this Thanksgiving and try out some delicious traditional Thanksgiving recipes, if you haven’t already. In the nature of Thanksgiving, thank you for your support towards CISM and thank you for reading!

Learn more about Canadian Thanksgiving versus American Thanksgiving in the video below.

Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia

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