National Holiday: Canada marks an interfaith Thanksgiving

MONDAY, OCTOBER 11: It’s Turkey Day for our Canadian friends today, as people across the northern nation sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner. (NPR recently featured a story on how Canadians mark Thanksgiving—read or listen to it here.) Whether this holiday is religious or secular depends a bit on who you ask: While the original act of Parliament refers to God, and many churches mark the day with harvest hymns, the most common observance is secular.

For the first Thanksgiving in Canada, in 1957, the day was announced as “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest …” (Wikipedia has details.) Participating churches still decorate with all things autumn, including pumpkins, wheat sheaves and cornucopias. Many Christian churches even recognize Jewish traditions today, as scriptures are often read that reflect the Jewish harvest festival, Sukkot!

For those who mark Thanksgiving in a secular manner, the long weekend is the perfect time to enjoy time with family and friends, or to take one last getaway before winter. (Kids can get into the festivities with craft help from Kaboose.) Thanksgiving dinner—something that is prepared at any time during the long weekend, although most often today—isn’t quite the elaborate, widespread celebration that it is in America, but the low-key dinner is still enjoyed by many. (AllRecipes has an article and delicious recipes for this holiday.) Just like with the American Thanksgiving, too, football entertains sports fans when the “Thanksgiving Day Classic” is aired, featuring the Canadian Football League.

The Canadian Thanksgiving may have been officially marked by Parliament in 1957, but the nation’s Aborigines were the first to mark such a day. Multiple First Nations in Canada had long held harvest festivals and thanksgiving ceremonies long before Europeans arrived on the continent.

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