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Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. The holiday was proclaimed by Parliament in 1957.
A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.
The modern holiday dates from about one hundred years ago and it is heavily influenced by the American tradition that was beginning to become well known at that time.

However, the original celebration clearly descends from harvest festivals celebrated in Europe hundreds of years ago. The first Europeans to come to North America brought this celebration with them and it likely became more popular because several East coast aboriginal tribes celebrated a harvest festival.

Canada claims that the first thanksgiving in North America was in 1578 when Martin Frobisher organized an autumn celebration in Newfoundland.1 Samuel de Champlain frequently celebrated thanksgiving feasts in the early French colonies in Nova Scotia and Quebec beginning in 1604. The local natives joined in these celebrations [see L’Ordre de Bon Temps (Order of Good Cheer)].

Further south, the English settlers in New England began to celebrate a harvest festival in 1621. A tradition that they brought with them from Europe. It's this version of the English festival that has come down to us as the prototypical thanksgiving day. That part of the tradition was imported to Canada in the late 1700s when thousands of settlers fled north from the new United Sates of America to take up residence in the British Colony of Canada.

1. The other contender is a festival on September 8, 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida. Is Florida part of North America? :-)

[Photo Credit: Actors recreating the Order of Good Cheer in 1970 (The Members of the Order)]

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