Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world. It is a time to gather with loved ones, express gratitude, and enjoy a hearty meal. While Thanksgiving is often associated with the United States, there is a lesser-known history of Thanksgiving in Canada. In this article, we will delve into the origins of Thanksgiving in Canada, separating fact from fiction and debunking common misconceptions.

Origins of Thanksgiving in Canada

The First Thanksgiving: Fact or Myth?

The popular belief is that Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the arrival of European settlers. However, the true origins of Thanksgiving in Canada are more complex than commonly believed. Contrary to popular belief, the first Thanksgiving in Canada did not occur with the arrival of European settlers.

Who Brought Thanksgiving to Canada?

The credit for bringing Thanksgiving to Canada is often attributed to Martin Frobisher, an English explorer. Frobisher is said to have celebrated a feast of thanksgiving in 1578, after successfully navigating the treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage. However, this claim is unsubstantiated and lacks historical evidence.

The Influence of American Thanksgiving

One of the main factors that influenced the introduction of Thanksgiving in Canada was the close cultural ties between Canada and the United States. Many Canadians were familiar with American Thanksgiving celebrations and felt a desire to adopt a similar holiday of gratitude and feasting.

The Evolution of Canadian Thanksgiving

The Role of Indigenous Peoples

It is important to recognize the role of Indigenous peoples in the history of Thanksgiving in Canada. Long before European settlers arrived, Indigenous communities in Canada celebrated harvest festivals and gave thanks for the bountiful gifts of the land. These traditions continue to be an integral part of Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations today.

Canadian Thanksgiving’s Shifting Date

Unlike American Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, Canadian Thanksgiving has a more fluid date. Initially, Canadian Thanksgiving was observed on various dates, but in 1957, the Canadian government declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the second Monday of October. This change was made to distance Canadian Thanksgiving from American Thanksgiving and to coincide with the end of the harvest season in Canada.

The Influence of World Wars

During both World War I and World War II, Canadian Thanksgiving took on additional significance. The holiday became an occasion to express gratitude for the safe return of soldiers and to remember those who had lost their lives in the conflicts. Thanksgiving became deeply intertwined with feelings of patriotism and remembrance during these tumultuous times.

Common Thanksgiving Myths and Misconceptions

The Turkey Myth

A common misconception is that turkey has always been the centerpiece of Canadian Thanksgiving meals. In reality, early Canadian settlers had a more diverse range of foods on their tables, including venison, duck, and fish. Turkey did not become a staple of Canadian Thanksgiving until much later.

The Pilgrim Connection

Another myth is that Canadian Thanksgiving can be directly traced back to the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While there are similarities between the two holidays, such as expressing gratitude and sharing a festive meal, the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are distinct and separate from the Pilgrims’ celebration.

Separating Fact from Fiction

In recent years, there have been a number of false claims and misinformation spread about the origins of Thanksgiving in Canada. It is crucial to fact-check and rely on credible sources when exploring the history of this holiday. The true story behind Canadian Thanksgiving is a fascinating one, rooted in the traditions of Indigenous peoples, European settlers, and the unique experience of Canada as a nation.


Canadian Thanksgiving has a rich and complex history, distinct from its American counterpart. While the exact origins of Thanksgiving in Canada may not be as clear-cut as commonly believed, the holiday remains an important occasion for Canadians to express gratitude and celebrate the blessings of life. By separating fact from fiction and debunking common myths, we can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history of Thanksgiving in Canada.

Who Brought Thanksgiving to Canada
OriginThanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to the 1578 voyage of English explorer Martin Frobisher in search of the Northwest Passage.
First CelebrationThe first official Thanksgiving in Canada took place on April 15, 1872, celebrating the recovery of Prince Edward (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.
DateThanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday of October, unlike the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.
RecognitionThanksgiving became a national holiday in Canada on January 31, 1957, through a proclamation by the Canadian Parliament.
TraditionsCanadian Thanksgiving traditions include a large family gathering, enjoying a festive meal featuring roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and expressing gratitude for the harvest and blessings of the year.
Comparison to the USWhile both Canadian and American Thanksgivings share a similar historical origin, they are celebrated at different times and have slightly different traditions.


Who brought Thanksgiving to Canada?

Thanksgiving in Canada can be traced back to 1578 when English explorer Martin Frobisher held a formal ceremony to give thanks for surviving his journey to the New World. However, the holiday didn’t become an annual tradition until 1879 when Canadian Parliament declared it a national holiday.


1. When did Thanksgiving become a national holiday in Canada?
Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in Canada in 1879 by the Canadian Parliament.

2. Is Thanksgiving celebrated on the same day in Canada as in the United States?
No, Thanksgiving is celebrated on a different day in Canada compared to the United States. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October, while in the United States, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

3. What is the significance of Thanksgiving in Canada?
Thanksgiving in Canada is a time to express gratitude for the blessings of the harvest and the preceding year. It is also a time for family gatherings and enjoying a festive meal together.

4. Does Thanksgiving in Canada have historical roots like in the United States?
Yes, Thanksgiving in Canada has historical roots similar to the United States. It can be traced back to English explorer Martin Frobisher’s formal ceremony of giving thanks in 1578 for surviving his journey to the New World.

5. Are there any traditional foods associated with Canadian Thanksgiving?
Yes, similar to the United States, there are traditional foods associated with Canadian Thanksgiving. These typically include roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. However, specific regional variations may exist.

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