Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce … Redux 2019

Today is a very important day in a couple of ways.  It is Thanksgiving Day in (most of) Canada, and it is also Indigenous Peoples Day in the U.S.  So, rather than dwell on the depressing latest news about the stench in Washington, I thought it would be more fun to take a look at these two holidays!  Yes, I realize it is Columbus Day, as well, but frankly that has been over-hyped for a long time, and you probably know a lot more about it than you do these two.

Since I have already done a fairly in-depth post about the Canadian Thanksgiving, I will share that first, and have an additional post later this afternoon about Indigenous Peoples Day.

🇨🇦 Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

I just realized, after a comment by friend Emily (Eschudel of Zombie Flamingoes) that today is Thanksgiving … in Canada!  Action de grâce!

Now, for those outside Canada, I thought I would look a bit into the history of Canada’s Thanksgiving.  We all know the lovely little story about the pilgrims and the natives and the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., which is basically a myth, but whatever.  So, I wondered if Canada has such a feel-good story too.  Well, turns out it’s confusing, but … let me tell you what I found, and then perhaps some of our Canadian friends will either correct me, or fill in the gaps.

According to Wikipedia …

“Thanksgiving is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

According to some historians, the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America occurred during the 1578 voyage of Martin Frobisher from England, in search of the Northwest Passage.

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, from 1604, also held feasts of thanks. They even formed the Order of Good Cheer and held feasts with their First Nations neighbors, at which food was shared.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

During and after the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year.”

But then, I found an article in The Star (Toronto) that I think is more likely to be authentic …

“In the case of Thanksgiving Day, the critical actors were a group of Protestant clergymen in what is now Ontario. In 1859, these men petitioned the Canadian colonial government to declare a mid-week day of thanksgiving in recognition of the harvest. The government agreed to the ministers’ request, and it would do so again four more times before 1866, and annually beginning in 1871.

Protestant leaders had dual motives in lobbying for an autumn holiday. First, they wanted to reassure Canadian Christians, whose faith had been shaken by the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859.

Second, they felt obligated to mould Canadian identity in light of the prospect — and after 1867, the reality — of Confederation. To clergymen, an abundant harvest provided proof of God’s hand in nature, and evidence that Canadians were a chosen people. As such, a holiday that celebrated the harvest would give them the opportunity to remind Canadians of both their material prosperity and their divine national destiny.

Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was a solemn and pious occasion compared to its American namesake. All businesses closed for the day, and church services were the only activities of note. Ministers delivered sermons that blended nationalism with religious dogma. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, they hailed the superiority of British political institutions and praised Canada (incorrectly) for having avoided the evils of slavery.

Overall, their Thanksgiving sermons celebrated Canada for being a white, British, Protestant country — a perspective that pointedly ignored the presence of French Canadians, Catholics, Indigenous people, and non-British immigrants.

In time, however, the Protestant conception of Thanksgiving Day, and the narrow definition of Canadian identity that it promoted, gave way to other influences. From the 1870s onwards, holiday church services lost ground to secular community events and commercial amusements.

Meanwhile, Canadians began adopting American Thanksgiving traditions, such as family gatherings, turkey dinners, and football games. Such activities enabled previously excluded groups to stake their own claims to Thanksgiving, and by extension, to Canadian citizenship.

By 1957, when the government permanently fixed the timing of Thanksgiving Day, the holiday’s domestic focus was firmly established. While many Canadians used the occasion to close their summer cottages for the season, others devoted the day to family get-togethers and turkey dinners.

Today, Canadian Thanksgiving shows few hints of its religious and nationalist beginnings.”

Interesting … things are rarely as they seem on first glance, and it is always fun to delve into the traditions and history of other nations.  At any rate, I wish all my Canadian friends & readers a very Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de grâce. You have one very obvious thing to be thankful for:  that you have Justin Trudeau instead of Donald Trump! I hope you were all able to celebrate with loved ones, much laughter and good food.


23 thoughts on “Happy Thanksgiving … Joyeux Action de Grâce … Redux 2019

  1. I’m glad you’ve done such a great job covering these important days of remembrance. Canadians have a lot to be thankful about, they’re not part of the US, UK or France for that matter! So wonderful celebrating the harvest, with good friends and family. Joyeux Action de grâce!
    Secondly I always had a problem with Columbus Day, why honor imperial colonialism? How can a country genuinely proclaim discovering new lands and claiming it for their own when THERE’S ALREADY INDIGENOUS PPL INHABITING THE PLACE??? The native American Indians were gracious enough to share, they had no concept of ownership b/c land is a gift for all ppl from god. Invaders of course have other ideas.
    Oh well, history is written by the victors. But this “holiday” is disingenuous at best and very offense to native ppl’s ancestry. Columbus day is one holiday I would delist out of respect, and acknowledge the atrocities wrongdoing of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for paying so much attention to our Thanksgiving — though I suppose, any time spent being thankful, or aware of rituals of thankfulness, is time well spent. I like the idea of the Martin Frobisher story, because it is so early-on, and I really, really like the Order of Good Cheer, particularly because those settlers chose to celebrate with their First Nations neighbours, and maybe all that ponderous late 19th-c bureaucratic process is the true origins… but mostly, I don’t think it that important. Remembering to be thankful, that’s what’s important. Somebody (and I wish I’d written down atribution, as well as the quote) once said: “Live in gratitude, not greed.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this historical origin of Canadian Thanksgiving, Jill. Ontario has always been a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) enclave. Hopefully, with the thousands of New Canadians from many cultures worldwide who now live in Ontario, that will no longer be true. Here in Kitchener-Waterloo (twin cities), we celebrate the annual Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade. Our roots in this area are German – most notably, Pennsylvania Deutch, who were the pioneers who founded the first settlements here. Until 1917, Kitchener was known as Berlin. With the anti-German sentiment of WWI, Berlin City Council renamed the city after Lord Kitchener who was the British nobleman in charge of recruiting troops in the British colonies for the war. Anyway, thanks for the plug, dear!

    Liked by 3 people

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