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Thanksgiving – U.S. vs Canada

Happy-ThanksgivingI was watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and John Candy, recently and was struck by how important it was for these two completely different Americans to get home for Thanksgiving – more so I think than if they had been Canadians (I realize Candy was actually born in Canada). It made me wonder what other differences there are between the two special days.

Here’s my completely unscientific take on the subject, based on personal observation a little Internet research and chatting  with friends.

  1. Well, obviously they’re on different days duh! -So that’s the major difference! Here we have the turkey on the second Monday in October and our southern neighbours celebrate on the fourth Thursday in November. Why? I think the main reason is that the two celebrations originated independently – that is they are not really the same event. For us, it seems to date back to 1578 when Sir Martin Frobisher, an English explorer, arrived in the New World, (to be precise, Newfoundland) and celebrated the expedition’s safe arrival. For our American friends, the first Thanksgiving celebration was some 43 years later thanksgiving dinnerwhen the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with the Wampanoag Native Americans who helped them cultivate the land. A another good reason we don’t celebrate in November is that our harvest (the main reason, at least traditionally, to give thanks) is a lot earlier and by the time Americans are celebrating most of Canada is frozen solid.
  2. In the US it’s a four-day holiday and here only three days. This is why perhaps Americans tend to travel to see friends and family more than we do. In many ways, it seems to be a bigger deal all round. If you plan to visit friends and family this year consider staying at an Accent Inns rather than putting added pressure on those you are visiting. Sometimes having your own space when families gather can be a blessing for both you, and your family and friends.
  3. Talking of big deals, have you ever seen Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Over 3.5m New Yorker’s attend and more than 50-million more watch it on television. It’s in its 89th year! Here we don’t have many parades, but I suppose we should tip our hat at Kitchener Waterloo’s Oktoberfest, which has been held since 1969.
  4. In the States, Thanksgiving seems to have become significantly more commercial with Black Friday and Cyber Monday demanding a lot of American’s attention. This may be because of how close it is to Christmas. In Canada we wait for Boxing Day for our big retail sales, although in recent years retailers are trying to get us fired up about Black Friday.
  5. The big meal – and for many of us that’s the highlight of the holiday – in the U.S. is always on Thursday the day itself, whereas here it can be either Sunday, or Monday.
  6. The big Thanksgiving meal itself is similar, but what’s with the American’s pumpkin pie? It’s custardy, creamy and very sweet unlike ours which is full of wonderful autumnal spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Yum! If you try the pumpkin pie at any of the Accent Inns restaurants let us know what you think.

For my part, Thanksgiving is all about family and giving thanks. It’s easy throughout the year to complain about all the trials and tribulations life throws at us but at Thanksgiving I try to forget all my problems and life challenges and give thanks for all that I have – my family, a roof over my head, my health and the health of my loved ones (such as it is) and the bounty that is our Thanksgiving dinner.

Regardless of the differences between us, our friends south of the border and ourselves share the same values and give thanks for the same things – we just do it a little differently.

I wish you everything you wish yourself this Thanksgiving.

Mike Wicks
Blue Beetle Creative