It’s time to celebrate thanksgiving again this year! Yay, for the long weekend!!!

Some of us may be planning to go on a getaway trip, some may be planning to use the time to study and cram for midterm, some may want to just laze around, some may still have to work.

What is Canadian Thanksgiving Day that is much celebrated by us anyways? Here’s some interesting facts taken from proudcanadiankids.ca:

First of all, the story of the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts aboard their ship, ‘The Mayflower’, is an American legend. It is a lovely story, but it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving in Canada.

Secondly, Martin Frobisher never set foot on the shores of Newfoundland!  Robert Ruby, an editor of the Baltimore Sun and the author of “The Unknown Shore” a book about the voyages of Frobisher states:

“Martin Frobisher never set foot in Newfoundland, and the minister who travelled with the fleet in 1578 was the Rev. Robert Woolfall (not Wolf). He led prayers aboard the “Judith” when a storm in July separated the ship from the rest of Frobisher’s fleet. And he did indeed lead a prayer when the surviving parts of the expedition reached Countess of Warwick Island, in August. According to the various logs and diaries, it was not accompanied by a special meal. Was it a first thanksgiving? Well, it was the first English prayer service in North America. And we can characterize it however we want.”

Thirdly, the Order of Good Cheer existed, but it likely had little, if anything, to do with Thanksgiving in Canada according to Peter Stevens of York University who wrote a fine paper on the origins of the holiday*, the gist of which appears below the next paragraph.

The truth of the matter is that Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to Ontario in the mid 1880s.  Protestant church leaders decided to ‘borrow’ the American tradition of Thanksgiving, but they wished to turn Thanksgiving into a nationalistic, religious event which excluded Catholics, the poor, and many minority groups. This approach eventually failed:

They did not simply duplicate the American Thanksgiving festival. Church leaders, particularly after Confederation, felt it their moral and historical duty to shape the Canadian identity in the Christian mould and saw the adoption of the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to do this. They created the Canadian Thanksgiving as an exclusively religious event that was white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, pro-British and often anti-American in nationalist intent.

The Protestant clergy successfully lobbied the Canadian government to create Canada’s first, national Thanksgiving in 1859. But it was only proclaimed sporadically in the ensuing years, as church, state and commerce each wrestled for control of the holiday. By the 1870s, American holiday traditions, such as family gatherings for turkey dinner and stories of the pilgrims, took hold in Canada, creating both   commercial opportunities for businesses, and a way for Catholics to celebrate the day as a non-religious event. With this, the Protestant clergy lost exclusive control of Thanksgiving Day. They lost all influence over the holiday in 1908, when the government appointed Thanksgiving for a Monday rather than a Thursday. Transportation companies had asked for the change, feeling that a long weekend would increase holiday travel. Churches opposed the move, fearing that it would hurt church attendance, as it did. In 1957, Parliament passed legislation to make Thanksgiving an annual holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October, eliminating the need for annual proclamations.

To Protestant clergymen, the early history of Thanksgiving is, perhaps, a tragedy, since they lost control over the holiday. From another perspective, it is a story of triumph. Catholics, workers, ethnic minorities and other groups excluded from the clergy’s notions of Thanksgiving and Canadian identity democratized the holiday and adopted their own holiday practices, asserting that they, too, had something to contribute to Canadian society and culture.

Sources:
http://www.proudcanadiankids.ca/Canadian%20Thanksgiving%20Truth.htm
http://www.yorku.ca/mediar/archive/Release.asp?Release=705

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” — Ephesians 1:15-16