Yes, it’s that time of year again. When turkeys run about gobbling, and Americans slay them in the name of thanks. But wait, isn’t real Thanksgiving in October? Well folks, lucky for you, True North Times is here to get to the bottom of that question, and bust some general myths surrounding everyone’s favourite autumnal holiday!
Myth: American Thanksgiving is older than Canadian Thanksgiving.
With a quick glance at the politics surrounding Thanksgiving, the American version appears to be older. When, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, American Thanksgiving became a Federal holiday.
Canadian Thanksgiving only came into political action when, in 1957, Parliament proclaimed, “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.” Seems to be pretty new compared to our neighbours to the south.
However, further examination reveals a different story. It seems as though the first American Thanksgiving celebrations took place in the early 1600s. Americans often trace the holiday back to the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation in modern-day Massachusetts.
Canadians, on the other hand, can trace our celebration back to the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher. One of the explorers “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places”. They even went on to say that this “celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.”
Myth: French Canadians, known to be more cultural than other Canadians, celebrate Thanksgiving more ardently than Americans.
Americans seem to love Thanksgiving. It’s a time to give thanks, pray for each other, spend time with family, eat a ton of delicious food, head out to town for parades, and, finally, to watch some real good American football. It seems French Canadians would need to celebrate hard to outdo this showing, but we all know from Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste that this level of celebration is completely attainable.
We know Quebec has been quite passionate during Octobers of the past (think 1970 and 1995) – but Thanksgiving really had nothing to do with the excitement.
It seems as though Thanksgiving was a big deal for the early founders of New France like Samuel de Champlain, but that has since faded out. Many French Canadians take the statutory holiday as an opportunity for a long-weekend getaway, while still enjoying the benefits of a festive turkey or ham dinner.
Myth: One reason Canadians and Americans celebrate Thanksgiving is to reinforce comfortable origin myths.
Politics and Thanksgiving go hand in hand – even though you probably shouldn’t talk about politics when you sit down to eat. In Canada and the United States, colonizers have used Thanksgiving to craft a peaceful narrative of European conquest. However, this peaceful past filled with thanks and respect for the land and its aboriginal peoples is sadly not a reality. Colonization destroyed cultures and peoples – eating a turkey in October or November and saying thanks simply can’t undo these actions.
NOT A MYTH.
Well, this has been a heated discussion, and we’ve managed to bust and confirm some interesting, funny, and sad myths. But what does this mean in regard to the ultimate question: which of the American or Canadian celebrations is the real Thanksgiving? Thanks to the subtle brilliance of the people over at Urban Dictionary, we have a definition to help us figure it out! Fakesgiving is defined as “a celebration of Thanksgiving not taking place on the actual holiday. Usually taking place due to some conflict with celebrating Thanksgiving on its respective day”. Armed with this definition, it’s only fair to say Canadian Thanksgiving is Fakesgiving when celebrated in the United States, while American Thanksgiving is Fakesgiving when celebrated in Canada. So, if you’re American and want a genuine Thanksgiving feast this Thursday, head back across the border instead of celebrating your phony holiday up here!