MONDAY, OCTOBER 14: Canadian Thanksgiving memories go back many centuries—as do the stories more familiar to Americans. After surviving dire conditions on the Atlantic, Canadian expeditionary groups in the late 1500s and early 1600s celebrated what amounted to a Thanksgiving. However, more recent celebrations literally hopped all over the calendar—landing as early as April before settling on the second Monday in October by national decree in 1957.
Today, official histories of the holiday in Canada stress that this is a harvest festival echoing traditions of the nation’s indigenous peoples. The Canadian Encyclopedia begins its entry this way: “Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers.”
Canada’s most-read newspaper, The Globe and Mail, sums it up for readers this way: “British explorer Martin Frobisher is credited with holding the first Canadian Thanksgiving–in Newfoundland–to mark his safe return from an unsuccessful search for the Northwest Passage. But aboriginal groups—both in Canada and the United States—have long traditions of holding Thanksgiving ceremonies to commemorate abundant harvests.”
It’s Not Just about Turkey Anymore!
Most Canadian families expect turkey, mashed potatoes and other autumn side dishes. One Canadian poll says as many as three-quarters of families plan to have some turkey. But, various Canadian journalists also have been pointing out: A growing number of Canadians are proud to call themselves “foodies”—and some holiday dinners will feature alternative dishes.
One Canadian food magazine announced last week that noted Peruvian-Canadian chef Ricardo Valverde will feature special Canadian (October 8) and American Thanksgiving (November 22) dinners this year at his Vancouver restaurant—serving some of his Peruvian specialities. For Canadian Thanksgiving, this year, he’s serving arroz con pato (rice with duck).
That freedom to indulge in a wide range of foods has been building for years. Since the 1960s, the week-long Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest in Ontario has been scheduled to coincide with Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadians claim it is the second-largest Oktoberfest in the world, drawing 700,000 visitors each year. Care to learn more? Here’s the event’s official website.