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Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Autumn. It’s a celebration to see off a brilliant summer and welcome the beginning of a festive winter.

Evidently, no celebration is complete without the company of our loved ones. A time when family and friends gather to enjoy a delicious and hearty meal.   This is a guarantee for a memorable event.

While this holiday is most known for its large turkey, endless sides, and even better leftovers let’s remember that this holiday is more importantly about giving thanks. After all, Thanksgiving comes around but once a year.

Where It All Began

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When did Canadians begin celebrating Thanksgiving? What is the origin of this most beloved holiday? Was the first Thanksgiving any different from our current celebrations?

Finding the answers to these questions isn’t always easy, even though we’ve probably all wondered about them.

We do know, however, that First Nations celebrated their harvests with feasts long before the arrival of European explorers. These feasts were held throughout the year at different times, and one can assume, that each First Nation tribe prepared for these celebrations differently – just as every family has its own tradition now.

Some say Martin Frobisher celebrated the first “Thanksgiving” dinner (as we currently understand it) in 1578 after returning from a long and arduous journey in search of the Northwest Passage. Still, no specific date was set for this celebration, and Canadian families began celebrating their own Thanksgiving dinners on the date that was most convenient to them; which so happened to be in early October.

It was on January 31, 1957, that the Canadian parliament declared the second Monday of October as the official day of Thanksgiving – a statutory holiday for most provinces and territories.

Wondering why our neighbors in the south celebrate Thanksgiving in November? It appears it’s simply a matter of weather. Since Canada’s climate is much cooler, our harvest days arrive earlier, as does our winter. Celebrating Thanksgiving earlier is then, in many ways, more convenient.

The Evolution of The Feast

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It might be surprising to learn that the first harvest dinners were primarily made up of corn (turned into grain for bread or porridge), venison and game birds. Pigeon, goose, duck, and swan were more common during those times than turkey. The birds may have been stuffed with onions and herbs or with chestnuts, but not with bread.

What we now consider classic side dishes would have been impossible then considering that white potatoes come from South America and sweet potatoes from the Caribbean. Such ingredients were therefore not available until much later on.

It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that the Thanksgiving dinner we know became more prominent as different foods became more available.

Thanksgiving dinner has always been evolving and changing to meet the needs of each individual family depending on available items. For families with dietary restrictions and unique lifestyles, there is no reason to feel deprived – the options are endless!

Staple Foods and Special Traditions

Every family enjoys celebrating Thanksgiving differently. Consider these common traditions and their equally exciting alternatives:

Football:

A good game of football is a Thanksgiving tradition that may seem purely American, but the Canadian Football League has been holding an annual Thanksgiving Day Classic since 1958 during which two games are played in a single afternoon.

For some families, a fun alternative to football is a day at the racetracks for celebratory races.

Festivals:  

Whether it be a local festival, a fair, or a fun-packed Oktoberfest – many Canadian families enjoy celebrating the beginning of fall with their communities.

A fun alternative is a family bake-off or a morning hike! Many families enjoy taking in some fresh air and getting in some exercise in preparation for the feast to come.

Breakfast:

While many families will opt out of a celebratory breakfast to make room for the evening meal, there are still many people who enjoy a special breakfast to start the day.

Pancakes, pie or something healthy and light – the choice is yours!

Turkey, gravy, stuffing, and side dishes for the ages:

For some, there is nothing more satisfying than the traditional turkey and their favorite childhood stuffing. These days, there are so many recipes that are bound to stun your guests and decorate your table beautifully.

For vegans and vegetarians, as well as for those with dietary restrictions, unique flavors and exciting dishes are at your fingertips! Many would say that alternative recipes make your Thanksgiving dinner all the more exciting. Unexpected combinations, vibrant colors and the perfect blend of spices can leave you and your guests asking for seconds, regardless of how close or far you stay from tradition.

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If there was ever a day to indulge and feel grateful about it – Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion.

Whether you have children, grandparents, extended family or friends coming over for dinner – you can make your Thanksgiving an extra special holiday with a few unexpected twists. Serve to your guests a menu that includes new and brilliant flavors that even the pickiest eaters will love. Plan ahead to remove the risk of last-minute preparations and stress – you’ll find some great and delicious ideas in our Recipes section.

What does your family serve for Thanksgiving dinner? What old or new traditions do you plan on doing this year?


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