Thanksgiving in North America

“A day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God…”

Video credit: Pratiks, “3 minutes pour comprendre Thanksgiving” November 15, 2013, via YouTube.

Dear All,
The video above discusses the history of Thanksgiving and its traditions in North America. Did you know that Thanksgiving is celebrated on different dates in Canada and in the US? This post discusses this and some other questions. The discussion about Thanksgiving in Canada and in the US is provided in the form of a table for the convenience of comparison:

Canada United States
Date 2nd Monday in October. 4th Thursday in November.

Officially proclaimed by the Canadian Parliament as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”

President Abraham Lincoln, “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” President George Washington, “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”
History Canadian Thanksgiving incorporates at least four traditions: 1) harvest celebrations in European societies the symbol of which was the cornucopia (horn of plenty); 2) the formal observance celebrated by the explorer Martin Frobisher (ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall) – this celebration (1587, modern Nunavut) is the first North American Thanksgiving and included giving thanks by Frobisher and his crew for their well-being and Holy Communion; 3) Thanksgiving of the French settlers who came to New France with explorer Samuel de Champlain (the early 17th century) – they celebrated their successful harvests at the end of the harvest season and shared food with the indigenous peoples of the area; and 4) the Pilgrims’ celebration of their first harvest (modern United States) – this involved the traditional turkey, squash, and pumpkin and was brought to Canada by settlers from the United States. Thanksgiving is associated with 1621 celebration at Plymouth. This thanksgiving at Plymouth was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England.
Modernity Thanksgiving is a statuary holiday (except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) which means that people have a day off. This holiday is both religious and civil. In Churches, special prayers are read to thank God for His Mercies. Civilly, families and friends gather together for a meal (preceded by a prayer). Some of the common dishes on a Thanksgiving table are turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, marshmallow, and pumpkin pie. Pecan and apple pies are also popular. On this day in Canada, families also visit parks, attractions (such as museums), and play games together (e.g. twister, chess, monopoly, etc.). Students have a day off too, but they often use this day to catch up with their assignments; if they have time, they spend it with family and friends.

Did you know that the word Eucharist (=Communion) comes from the Gr. word εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) which means “thanksgiving”?

Thanksgiving is a public holiday in the United States. Similarly, people can enjoy their time with families and friends. Many people participate in Church services. Interestingly, in some countries of the world, Thanksgiving is not a traditional holiday and there is no separate, special tradition to mark it in the Church calendar; however, people that form a community in the United States tend to celebrate Thanksgiving with a prayer and a special meal. Meals which are commonly served for this holiday in the United States are identical to those in Canada. In addition to going for a walk, playing games together, people may also choose to watch TV together (particularly football and a family movie). Specifically American is the tradition of “pardoning” a turkey when the President “pardons” a bird which ensures that it will spend the duration of its life roaming freely on a farm.

How is Thanksgiving celebrated in your country/community?

1 Comment


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