Canadian Thanksgiving Day, or Jour de l’Action de grâce in French, happens in October on Columbus Day. It doesn’t have any Pilgrims or Indians in its mythic origins, nor any kitschy candles shaped like them. The celebration of a regular Thanksgiving Day came north with American colonial refugees loyal to England after the Revolutionary War. For a while, starting in 1879 our Thanksgiving coincided with America’s in November and the date changed few times until 1957 when it was officially declared the second Monday in October. Although Thanksgiving happens on Monday, a lot of Canadians have their Thanksgiving dinners on the weekend and take Monday to relax. There is a religious aspect to the Canadian festival which is strictly secular in the States. As an offshoot of European harvest festivals, churches are decorated with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves and hymns of thanksgiving are sung on Thanksgiving Sundays in many churches. These are clearly extensions of early Pagan harvest rites absorbed by the Christian church. Just as in Europe and the U.K. old green man images of the previous Pagan religions covered the early churches linking past and present.
As a transplanted Yank, I was happy to discover that we celebrate one of my favourite holidays in Canada with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce- the real kind, you know- the kind that comes in a can served with all the ridges visible as easy cutting guides. 😉 and pumpkin pie with whipped cream or Kool Whip if you like. I’ll bet they’d even welcome green bean casserole with crunchy onions on top. No one knows the words to Over the River and Though the Woods here, so I sing it softly to myself as I stir the gravy and spend the day with my Canadian family knowing that I’m thankful for them, for Canada and for Thanksgiving itself both the Canadian one and the American one that we celebrate with my cousins in Oregon.
Here are some shots of my Canadian Thanksgiving.
Over The River and Through the Woods (the original poem)
by Lydia Maria Child, 1844Over the river, and through the wood to Grandfather’s House we go; the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s House away! We would not stop for doll or top, for this is Thanksgiving Day. Over the river, and through the wood- Oh, how the wind does blow! It stings the toes and bites the nose As over the ground we go. Over the river, and through the wood, with a clear blue winter sky, The dogs do bark, and children hark, As we go jingling by. Over the river, and through the wood, To have a first-rate play. Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”, Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day! Over the river, and through the wood, No matter for winds that blow, Or is we get the sleigh upset Into a bank of snow. Over the river, and through the wood, To see little John and Ann. We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball, And stay as long as we can. Over the river, and through the wood, Trot fast, my dapple-gray! Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound, For this is Thanksgiving Day. Over the river, and through the wood, And straight through the barnyard gate, We seem to go extremely slow, It is so hard to wait! Over the river, and through the wood, Old Jowler hears our bells. He shakes his paw, with a loud bow-wow, And thus the news he tells. Over the river, and through the wood, When Grandmother sees us come, She will say, “Oh dear, the children are here, Bring a pie for everyone.” Over the river, and through the wood, Now Grandmother’s cap I spy! Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!