Thanksgiving is for many of us is the beginning of our autumn. It’s the time when we realize Winter is just around the corner and it’s a time to prep for the upcoming shorter days and longer nights. It’s a time to clean up the garden and get it ready for a fresh start in the Spring. It’s a time to rake the leaves and for kids to burrow into the tall mounds of leaves playing hide and seek. It’s a time for the farmers to harvest their crops and for families lucky enough to have a summer cottage to close everything up, and prepare for the big feast with all the trimmings. And where does all this tradition come from?

In 1621, the Pilgrims at Plymouth in Massachusetts celebrated the end to a long drought they had endured that year and a subsequent bountiful harvest. It was also the signing of an historic treaty between the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims. This treaty led to security between the two parties as they pledged to not fight each other and to always come to each others aid in time of trouble. 

Our traditions in Canada predate the Pilgrims in the colonies; first with the indigenous peoples having a tradition of thanksgiving for surviving the winter, and the Great Spirit granting them good harvests and game to eat. These traditions included potlatches on the West Coast,  dances and tribal gatherings across Canada.

According to legend, English explorer Marin Frobisher and his crew gave thanks and communion at Frobisher Bay in Nunavut in 1587. Their celebratory feast consisted of salt beef, biscuits, and beans for their safe arrival in what we now know today as Newfoundland. On November 14, 1606 Samuel de Champlain gave thanks and celebrated their good fortune with the Mi’kmaq First Nations in the Maritimes.  It was here the tradition of eating cranberries began with the Fall feast. 

Although we had our own traditions the United Empire Loyalists from the 13 colonies brought with them the turkey, squash, and pumpkin foods we now associate with a traditional Thanksgiving meal. 

Today, we celebrate annually Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, and this event was decried by our Canadian Parliament a national holiday on January 31, 1957. Prior to this, Thanksgiving was officially an annual national holiday on November 6 of each year. Thanksgiving was changed from November to October because of the First and Second World Wars so as to not conflict with our November 11 day of Remembrance. For all Canadians regardless of race, religion, or creed it’s a time to give thanks to all that we have had the good fortune to inherit thanks to all the-First Nations, Europeans, and other people’s from around the world-prior generations who arrived on our shores and contributed to building our nation and to our ongoing prosperity. 

The Canadian mosaic is diverse and it is this diversity that I personally appreciate and love about our country the most. It is what makes Canada an example to the world and hopefully a guiding light for nations who struggle with democracy and diversity. We are not perfect as we’ve recently discovered about our past; in particular to First Nations, and I believe we as a nation are open to learning from our past and building on our past. We are constantly evolving as a country and I am thankful by virtue of birth to be born here. I could have been born in many other places on this planet and I would not have had the opportunities nor the supports that we Canadians have had the privilege of experiencing. Thank you Canada! Thank you my ancestors! Thank you  First Nations for standing up to the hypocrisy that our leaders have exhibited  and bringing these hypocrisies to our attention as a nation so that they may be addressed. And a big thank you to all of you who have given up your homelands to build a new life in Canada. Thank you all!

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