- Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October, while the US celebrates on the fourth Thursday of November.
- The earliest recorded Canadian Thanksgiving actually dates back to 1578 — well before the Pilgrims and the Native Americans feasted at Plymouth in 1621.
- However, many people believe Canadian Thanksgiving has always been rooted in the start of the harvest, which happens earlier in Canada than it does in the US.
- Thanksgiving started as a religious holiday in Canada, but it’s now just a time to relax and eat some food with family.
The world is constantly comparing Canadians to Americans.
Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October, instead of the fourth Thursday in November, which is when those in the US celebrate.
It’s easy to assume that Canada, being the younger of the two countries, copied the tradition from the US.
However, Canadian Thanksgiving may have actually come first.
Business Insider previously reported that the earliest recorded Canadian Thanksgiving celebration dates back to 1578, after explorer Martin Frobisher’s third voyage to Canada.
After losing one of his ships along the way, he apparently had a big celebration to give thanks for this safe passage when he landed in Nunavut.
This was years ahead of the first recorded US feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans at Plymouth in 1621, according to Time— an event that is now more somber for many Native Americans due to the war that followed a generation later.
Others suggest that the Canadian date has always been centered around the harvest season, which starts earlier in Canada than it does in the US. One theory is that Thanksgiving came from French Settlers who came to Canada in the early 17th century and wanted to celebrate their harvests in what was then New France.
Either way, the day wasn’t formalised as a national holiday until 1879. Even then, the date wasn’t fixed until 1957, when the government officially named the second Monday of October as Thanksgiving Day, according to Culture Trip.
It also started out as a religious holiday, though that’s no longer the case.
According to Time, in 1859 Canada’s Protestant ministers began to petition the colonial government for an official day to thank God, “pointing to the bountiful harvests as proof that God exists.”
However, historian Peter A. Stevens said Canadians also became thankful they were “spared the bloodshed” of the US Civil War.
“[Thanksgiving] was a solemn, holy day in the middle of the week when people would go to church,” Stevens said, adding that they would “thank God for how fortunate they are to be Canadian.”
At the time, Canada was about to become a separate country from Great Britain, so having a “Protestant national celebration” was also an effort to help Canada create a national identity.
However, the Protestant aspect of the national holiday “started to lose its dominance,” according to Time — partly due to the fact it involved a day a church in the middle of a five-day work week, and partly because people were looking for “more of a party.”
And, as the idea of a national Thanksgiving spread into the US, Stevens said Canadians “got the idea for hosting a harvest feast after reading how Americans celebrated the holiday in readily-accessible U.S. newspapers and magazines.”
In 1908, the date was moved to a Monday, and in 1957 a law was passed to make it the second Monday of October each year — and it’s stayed that way ever since.
The date no longer has religious roots, though — it’s mainly just a reason to enjoy the season, some good food, and a day off with family.