I am a proud Canadian American. Canadians fondly refer to our country as our “true north native land” and our national pride is strong. Although I reside now in the United States, my Canadian roots run deep. I am the only member of my family who actually moved away from Canada — my entire family still resides there — and I travel to my homeland frequently, including during Thanksgiving.
My two kids are also American citizens. We have the best of both worlds and are thankful for being citizens of two great nations. The kids tease their dad, as he only has one measly nationality.
In Canada, I grew up with only one Thanksgiving and when I moved to the United States, I had the privilege of celebrating a second Thanksgiving — American Thanksgiving.
As a teenager, I recall learning that Thanksgiving in the states was not only a different day of the week but in an entirely different month. I didn’t think too much of this difference at the time but was utterly fascinated by this phenomenon I saw on TV called Black Friday. A day dedicated to early morning, frenzied discount shopping? Count me in! We most definitely did not have such a day after Thanksgiving where I lived.
When I moved to the U.S., my American friends were quite fascinated with Canadian Thanksgiving and often asked what Canadians do during the holiday.
We eat lots of turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies and pumpkin pie. In fact, Canadian Costcos offer the same huge pumpkin pies during Thanksgiving as they do during American Thanksgiving. We drink a lot of beer and watch hockey rather than American football — we are Canadian, after all.
It seems there is not that much of a difference between American and Canadian Thanksgiving — well, except for Black Friday. But it turns out historically, there are some fundamental differences between the two.
The first Canadian Thanksgiving may have been in 1576, 43 years prior to the first American Thanksgiving. Some theories point to the arrival of the English explorer, Sir Martin Frobisher, on the shores of Newfoundland, giving thanks for his safe passage across the ocean. Other theories include a day of thanks for a bountiful harvest, which typically happens earlier in the Great White North, also known as Canada. It landed on the second Monday in the month of October officially in 1957.
The first American Thanksgiving was thought to be in 1621. Pilgrims traveled across the ocean in hopes of finding the freedom to practice their own religious expressions. What they experienced that first year were many hardships, including losing nearly half of their population that went on the journey to disease and malnutrition. After that first hard-fought year, with the help of the Native American community, their corn harvest was a success. The pilgrims invited the Native Americans to a feast in celebration of the harvest.
Canadians have a true three day weekend during the Thanksgiving holiday in October. The Friday after American Thanksgiving is not a federally recognized holiday and many Americans have to take it as a vacation day if they want it off. Now that I can partake in Black Friday festivities here in the states, I wonder why Black Friday isn’t a recognized holiday; it really is the perfect day to get shopping done and get over the turkey day coma.
I am lucky. I enjoy the best of both worlds, celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with my family in Canada and celebrating American Thanksgiving. And here is the best part: Canadians just picked up the American practice of Black Friday sales, the day after American Thanksgiving. Sadly, it is not a recognized holiday in Canada, either.
Now, if I can just as easily find a fresh turkey for American Thanksgiving in Canada and vice versa, this Canadian-American will be all set for my dual celebrations.
Kate Dowling is a reporter for The Beachcomber.