Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest holidays in Canada. It is not quite as big as Christmas or Easter for some reason, but it’s still a hallmark when it comes to holidays.
A brief history of our Thanksgiving and why we celebrate it.
It was believed that indigenous people celebrated harvest time in the fall before the European settlers came over. There are several significant dates for thanksgiving; the first official Thanksgiving in Canada was November 6, 1879. The first celebration featuring the traditional Thanksgiving meal including turkey, squash and pumpkin was introduced in the 1750s. This became the common celebration meal in Canada by the 1870s. The amazing thing is Thanksgiving was not made a national holiday until the late 1950’s when it was declared a national annual event occurring the second Monday of October. It is now a national, official statutory holiday in all provinces except PEI, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Thanksgiving was celebrated to give thanks to God for several reasons. For the settlers and explorers, it was giving thanks for the safe journeys. There was also giving thanks for bountiful harvest and provision. There was also celebration and thanksgiving for safety from disease and illness that would ravage people. There was a very high mortality rate before medical practices were able to develop in dealing with disease and illness. So, to make it through any outbreak or even a simple fever was something to be extremely thankful for. There was thankfulness for keeping livestock safe as well. Livestock was particularly important for both work and food.
But why do we celebrate Thanksgiving today?
I believe we should still celebrate for the same reasons. They may not look the same as it did one or two hundred years ago, but we still have safety and provision.
We don’t have the problems they had back then. Yes, we have our issues in the present age, but not near as bad as then. We get a fever, and we can go to our cupboard and take a Tylenol or Advil to reduce the fever or head to the doc for something stronger. Our concern of mortality of greatly decreased, but being thankful for health remains a present reality.
We have food galore! Well…most of us do. If we get more than one meal a day, we should be extremely thankful. Most of us are able to go get food if we need to and can even help other people. Gathering together over a family meal is a traditional part of our thanksgivings here.
Even when we have nothing, we can still be thankful. I know people who have income under the poverty line, and they are grateful every day for something. They have a warm place to live. They have their family, food most days…but they are continually thankful for what they have.
So, Thanksgiving in Canada is a very old tradition, but also very wise. Thankfulness is a fruit of peace. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
I am thankful for the provision and health I have. Even amid COVID, we can be grateful. You see what you focus on, so focus on what you can be thankful for this thanksgiving.
And… I am thankful to you, my reader, for reading about Thanksgiving in Canada. What pray tell are you thankful for?