The season of holidays is upon us. Rosh Hashanah has barely passed and Yom Kippur began last night which means Succoth is just around the corner.
Ramadan has just ended, marked by the feast of Eid al-Fitr. Thanksgiving arrives in only two weeks. Everywhere in Canada folk are eating, fasting, praying, eating more, arguing with family, and swearing they’re going to do the holidays different next year. This is called “tradition.”
Today, we begin a two-part series on Thanksgiving. Part I: History.
Technically, Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. Nowhere in the Bible does God proclaim, “Thou shalt go forth and kill the fatted turkey … also, a little cranberry sauce on the side is nice.”
The fact I know this just goes to prove that my degree in theology has practical application after all.
The first Canadian Thanksgiving, celebrated in 1578, had nothing to do with the fall harvest.
Explorer Martin Frobisher returned home to Newfoundland, having failed to find the Northwest Passage, and held a feast to celebrate. Originally called the “OK, I’m a Loser but at Least I’m Still Alive” festival, this was later shortened to simply “Thanksgiving.”
Before 1879, the date of Thanksgiving depended entirely on the whim of the government and shifted around without apparent rhyme and reason, much like social service funding does today. In 1957, Parliament finally confirmed Thanksgiving to be the second Monday in October and a statutory holiday was declared throughout country.
Except among those plucky Maritimers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I, who insisted, “No way are we letting Ottawa tell us what to do” even though it was pointed out that it meant getting a day off work.
Today, Thanksgiving is a celebration of nature’s bounty.
Growing up, my school invited students to put together an annual display of harvest items.
There was always a pineapple. I’m not sure why this was, given that our small, Ontario farming town wasn’t really known for its abundant pineapple output. A friend in Edmonton says her school’s harvest table always featured at least one Snickers bar. That, I get. I’m thankful for chocolate once a month, minimum.
This ends our history segment. Next week, Part II: “Tips for putting the Thanks in Thanksgiving.” For instance, “The best part of any holiday is spending time with family.
Sometimes it helps if the family you spend time with is not your own.”