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6 ways Canadian Thanksgiving differs from the US

Recently updated on April 30th, 2024 at 05:49 pm

In both the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving is a holiday to give thanks, enjoy a feast with family, and celebrate a bountiful harvest. But that’s where the similarities end. To honour Canadian Thanksgiving in 2022, we look at how Canada does Thanksgiving differently – from the history and the date to the food and traditions.

1. Canada honours a different Thanksgiving

There’s a lot of debate around the first true Thanksgiving. While some historians believed it happened in Plymouth in the US, others say it occurred in Nuvanut in Canada. The first Thanksgiving is said to have happened in 1578, when Sir Martin Frobisher sailed from England to Newfoundland, Canada. He celebrated with his crew over salt beef, mushy peas, and biscuits, giving thanks for their safe passage across the ocean. Meanwhile, the first US Thanksgiving feast didn’t happen until 43 years later, when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth in 1621, and gave thanks to the Wampanoag and a bountiful harvest. Whatever side of the debate (or border) you sit on, the day is still all about gratitude and giving thanks in both countries.

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2. Canadian Thanksgiving is held in October – on a Monday

Canadian Thanksgiving has a different origin story – and also a different date. While the US Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in November, Canada celebrates on the second Monday of October. The date has moved around a few times – and it wasn’t even regularly observed until it was formalised as a national holiday in 1879. The Canadian government finally settled on an October Thanksgiving celebration in 1957. Why? The date lines up with the end of the Canadian autumn harvest and it’s early enough to avoid the freezing cold of winter. While the official Thanksgiving Day is Monday, the big family feast can happen at any point on the weekend – so you have time to shake off that food coma!

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3. It’s not as big a deal as the US Thanksgiving

The Canadian Thanksgiving is a lot more chilled out than the US Thanksgiving. While some families celebrate with a big dinner, it’s just not that important for others. While most of the country gets the Monday off, in some parts of the country like Atlantic Canada, it’s an optional holiday – so not all businesses close for the day. In Quebec, Thanksgiving is called “Action de Grâce” but many Quebecers don’t celebrate at all. Meanwhile, Americans get Friday and Monday off over the Thanksgiving weekend.

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family clinking wine glasses at thanksgiving dinner

4. The food is a little different

Thanksgiving food is fairly similar across Canada and the US, with just a few small regional differences. Instead of turkey, Canadians might serve ham and tourtiere, a pastry pie filled with potatoes. People from Newfoundland like to enjoy a traditional Jiggs dinner – corned beef, root vegetables, and peas pudding all boiled together. For dessert, Ontarian locals usually go for butter tarts, while people in the Canadian Prairie love their apple pie, instead of pumpkin pie. And if you are serving pumpkin pie in Canada, it’s likely made with more nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cinnamon than the US version. As for stuffing, Canadians use rice and bread crumbs. You also probably won’t find as much cornbread or sweet potatoes and marshmallows here. 

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5. The Thanksgiving parades are smaller affairs in Canada

The US throws massive events at Thanksgiving like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. But the Canadians are a bit more low-key, with smaller, local events. You’re more likely to go for a fall walk than watch the football, go to parades, or hit the mall. 

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6. Black Friday isn’t a thing

Speaking of malls – Canadians don’t have massive shopping sales the day after Thanksgiving. While the US is known for the mayhem of Black Friday, it’s just not a thing in Canada. Their biggest discount shopping day in Canada is usually Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. 

How will you celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in 2022? Let us know in the comments below!

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