This coming weekend in Canada is the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Our celebration of the harvest is always the second Monday in October. We have Thanksgiving earlier than our neighbors to the south because our harvest is in earlier.
They don’t call us the great white north for nothing. By the time we reach the fourth Thursday in November—Thanksgiving in the U. S.—we are often up to our butts in that white cold slushy stuff, which I usually refer to as either pollen, or kaka.
I do recall as a kid in grade school—I’m thinking second and third grade—colouring artwork for the holiday that included pumpkins, turkeys and Pilgrims. Now, call me silly, but we Canadians didn’t have pilgrims in our historical record. They landed on Plymouth Rock, didn’t they? Well not actually on the rock, but in the harbor, which is in the United States.
But since we here in Canada co-opted your holiday, why not go all out and co-opt your imagery too?
We almost can’t help ourselves. By comparison our history seems so boring. We didn’t have a rebellion with tea tossed defiantly in the Boston harbor to begin our nation. The Dominion of Canada was created through a conference. Once confederation was agreed to, with an okey-dokey from Queen Victoria, the British North America Act, an act of the British parliament, was passed into law and signed in 1867. Before that our fledgling nation, the British Colonies, consisted of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Upper Canada and Lower Canada—with a group of powerful businessmen called the Family Compact thrown in as spice.
I have no idea if pilgrims are still the center of the school artwork in my country this time of year or not. I suppose it’s a moot point. I don’t know what symbolism we could incorporate that would be completely and uniquely Canadian for a holiday that, quite frankly, is not.
There are similarities between the US feast day and our own. But there are differences, too. We’re not as fervently patriotic with regard to Thanksgiving as our neighbors to the south are. We don’t have our own parades (we watch yours) or traditional football games (we watch yours). We don’t rush out and do any Christmas shopping right after (our black Friday is your black Friday), because we’re a month earlier than you with our Thanksgiving. We do have fall fairs, with candy apples, cotton candy and rides.
The similarities between Canadian and American Thanksgiving are many. Turkey is our most usual feast-day meal and yes, our dessert table features pumpkin pie. A lot of us even serve sweet potatoes as a side dish, too. My family called those candied yams when I was a kid but they weren’t yams, and our turnip isn’t turnip it’s rutabagas...I’m afraid it appears that Canadians aren’t very original, period.
Well, there is one thing that would seem to be original here, but again, it’s kind of problematic, too.
We do have Canadian bacon, but I should probably point out that if you come up here and order Canadian bacon you’ll get a blank look. Bacon is bacon and what you call Canadian bacon is actually back bacon, and not very common here at all. If you order bacon with your eggs at any restaurant that I’ve ever been to, what you get is side bacon. And, of course, there is peameal bacon, but that isn’t really bacon, either. It’s lean, cured pork loin, edged with cornmeal.
Really, the most important aspect of this holiday, as with any other, is the fellowship it encourages. Thanksgiving, more than any of the holidays we keep each year, is centered around food and family and friends—and gratitude.
Since so few of us are farmers anymore, I suppose you could say that Thanksgiving isn’t so much a celebration of the harvest in modern times as it is a celebration of our relationships with and connections to each other.