By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
To start off the week many across the country celebrated Thanksgiving. Breaking bread and gobbling up turkey amongst other goodies with families and friends. Being hopeful for the future and thankful for the past. The feeling of fall kicks in for most, as Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada every year on the second Monday of October. This came into effect when it was declared so by the Canadian Parliament on Jan. 31, 1957, but Thanksgiving in Canada has a few stories before that. For starters long before Europeans came to the land we now know as Canada, Indigenous people had long held communal feasts with they own rituals and dance to celebrate their harvests come fall.
The first few Thanksgivings on record were celebrated far between. Although there has been much dispute over whether this counted as a real Thanksgiving some argue that the first on record can date back to 1578 when Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew and discovered what is now called Nunavut. It is said thanks was given to God with the ship’s Chaplain while they feasted on salt beef, mushy peas, and biscuits. Fast forward 28 years on the east coast Samuel Champlain incepted a series of rotating feasts held more than just once a year in Port Royal, Nova Scotia that were then called Ordre de Bon Temps (Order of Good Cheer). The first of these was held on Nov. 14, 1606, in which the local First nations Mi?kmaq were invited to. Mi?kmaq’s who call their national territory Mi?kma?ki are people of the Northeastern Woodlands, indigenous to the areas of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine in the U.S. During this time the epidemic of scurvy was at a high and at these feasts it was the Mi?kmaq who introduced the French to cranberries or at that time referred to as petites pommes rouges (little red apples). Rich in Vitamin C these little added treats that are now a must at most Thanksgiving dinner tables were credited for aiding in and avoiding scurvy.
Champlain’s Order of Good Cheer feasts came 21 years before the first American Thanksgiving was recognized when the Pilgrims first celebrated their harvest with the Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Massachusetts in 1621. However, what they feasted on then and what we feast on now would be quite different and many of traditional favourites didn’t earn a place at the table until years later. It wasn’t until the 1750’s that some of those fan favourites like the North American turkey, squash and pumpkin first came to Nova Scotia. Halifax citizens had a Thanksgiving feast of sorts to celebrate the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763 which was the first global war on record which was fought throughout Europe, India, and America, and at sea was celebrated by in 1763.
While the first Thanksgiving was observed after confederation in 1872, it wasn’t until Nov. 6, 1879, that Thanksgiving was recognized as an annual event. However, when it happened annually at that time was still not set in stone, sometimes in coincided when our American neighbours would celebrate, while there are records showing it being celebrated as late in the year, as the first week of December. In 1921 Armistice Day which was introduced two years prior and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday that fell on the week of November 11 to incorporate this celebration alongside recognizing veterans, this week and November 11 became solely reserved and recognized as Remembrance Day in 1931. A new date was needed to celebrate Thanksgiving and it was at this time it was usually observed on the second Monday in October and then the Parliament of Canada made it official in 1957.
Fun facts about Thanksgiving
The symbol of the cornucopia or horn of plenty was introduced to us by the Europeans and dates to their peasant societies. Pumpkin pie has certainly become the staple Thanksgiving dessert across the country, but other provinces seem to have their favourites. Nanaimo Bars are popular in parts of British Columbia while those in Ontario prefer a good butter tart. Thanksgiving is not recognized as an official statutory holiday in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, or Nova Scotia and in Quebec Thanksgiving is referred to as Action de grâce. Newfoundlander like to celebrate this day with what is known as a Jiggs dinner is primarily made up of salt beef or riblets which are boiled together with potatoes, carrot, cabbage, turnip, and greens.
However, you celebrated Thanksgiving this week, if you celebrated it, the one common thread is that we call all be thankful we live and breathe in the Columbia Valley located on the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis peoples of B.C.