no coincidence that the same holiday should fall on two
different days in Canada and the United States, says Dorothy Duncan, Executive Director of the Ontario Historical Society. Because of the seasonal differences between the two countries, our harvest happens earlier in the year, as does our Canadian Thanksgiving.
That's not the only difference. "Pilgrims" explains Vivian Nelles, professor of Canadian History at York University, are an entirely United States' phenomenon. "There were no pilgrims involved in our Thanksgiving. None."
In 1576, English explorer Martin Frobisher set out to find a northern passage that would lead him to the Orient. He then spent two years trying to become rich mining what he thought was gold ore, and attempted to establish the first English settlement in North America on what would come to be known as Baffin Island. While he failed on all counts, he did celebrate the first formal North American Thanksgiving, a full 43 years before the pilgrims of Massachusetts at Plymouth Rock.
Celebrated on the second Monday in October, by proclamation of Parliament in 1957, Canadian Thanksgiving is "a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."
The day is celebrated in Canada as a national holiday rather than a religious one, but its true roots and European heritage rest in something considerably more pagan. The original festivities date back 2,000 years to Celtic priests, the druids, who celebrated a harvest festival. Once their summer's harvest had been safely stored, the Celts prayed for their sun god in the coming battle with the darkness and cold of winter. The harvest season was of importance since it marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
As their harvest rituals evolved, eventually combining with the Christian Feast of Saints, "Thanksgiving" as we know it was born, and later, brought to the new world. Records of Port Royal, Nova Scotia, dating back to 1710, note October 10 as a celebration of thanksgiving for the return of the town to the English. In 1763, the citizens of Halifax commemorated the end of the Seven Years War in a similar ceremony. From there, the tradition slowly moved across the country.
Canada's Parliament of 1879 formally declared November 6 as a day of Thanksgiving, marking that day every year until after World War I, when Thanksgiving and Armistice (Remembrance) Day was celebrated in the same week. It's current date, the second Monday in October, was regarded by former Ontario Premier E.C. Drury, as a farmer's holiday stolen by cities to provide them a long weekend when the weather was better than winter.
for the day, for the harvest, and for the generous aroma of the turkey
roasting in the oven, let us be thankful.
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