By Kim Hutchison
It’s hard to believe another Thanksgiving came and went. This particular holiday means a day off from work and the consumption of a delicious meal, but have you ever stopped to ponder why?
The Canadian Thanksgiving is actually based on a number of traditions, the most popular being the European harvest festival. Before the arrival of the first Europeans in North American, farmers in Europe held celebrations to give thanks for a successful harvest. Tradition included filling a curved goat’s horn with fruit and grain called “a Horn of Plenty”. Workers who began a new life in Canada took this tradition with them, which is known as a Cornucopia.
In 1578 English navigator Martin Frobisher held a ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey across the Atlantic Ocean. He was knighted and had the inlet Frobisher Bay named after him. Other settlers arrived and continued this tradition.
In 1621 the Pilgrims, who were English colonists who founded a permanent European settlement at Plymouth Massachusetts, celebrated their harvest in the New World – The United States of America. By the 1750s, settlers moving to Canada from America had taken their celebrations and traditions with them. At the same time, French settlers arriving in Canada with the explorer Samuel de Champlain held Thanksgiving feasts and shared their food with their Indian neighbours.
After the seven years war ended in 1763 the citizens of Halifax, Nova Scotia held a special day of Thanksgiving. Also at the time of the American Revolution, people who remained loyal to the Government in England moved to Canada and spread the Thanksgiving celebration to other parts of the country.
Over the years, the official date has changed. In 1879 the Canadian Parliament declared November 6 as a day of Thanksgiving making it a national holiday until after the First World War when Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day were celebrated in the same week. It was then changed to the third Monday in October and remained that way for some time. On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed Thanksgiving take place on the second Monday of October. It is believed this change was made because since we are geographically further north than America, our harvest happens sooner.