In Canada, Thanksgiving is one of our national holidays, as it is in the United States, however, we celebrate it in October and they, in November.
Canadian Thanksgiving is in remembrance and celebration of the bountiful harvest that Canada’s First Nations Peoples shared with the European explorers who first discovered “the new world”.
I have always known the reason for the celebration but it was not until recent years, when people from other countries began to connect into my life, that I had put any thought into the fact that this is a North American holiday. I mean, I always understood that the discovery of ‘the new world’ meant ‘North America’, but in my self-centered, only-think-about-what-affects-me youth, I hadn’t really thought about it.
A number of years ago, my parents’ friend from England visited with us over this holiday and she was quite excited to experience her first Thanksgiving. It was her visit that made me realize that this was something unique to Canadians (in October) and North Americans in general.
Two years ago we had an exchange student from France staying with us in October and it was to be his first experience with Thanksgiving as well. These two occasions in particular really made me begin to wonder what it would be like to live somewhere else and not have this celebration; one which I have always taken for granted.
Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. The weather is changing and the days are growing colder. The leaves on the trees are turning golden-yellow, crimson red and burnt orange and they crunch under your feet as they collect on the frost-kissed ground.
Thinking back, I remember Thanksgiving more for the feeling it produced than the actual day. You were settled into your school routine. The excitement of Halloween was just around the corner and every child was beginning to plan their costume. But Thanksgiving meant a long weekend, a day off school, and a big family meal.
Another reason that I love the Fall is the food! Autumn harvest means that all the root vegetables are available and local apples fill the markets.
Fresh local apples meant that our house would soon be filled with the smell of cinnamon and sugar mingling with the sweet aroma of baking apples; my mom would be making apple crisp – one of my favourite desserts, and one which we would only see at this time of year. She also made the most delicious sweet potatoes imaginable sweetened with maple syrup.
If you are Canadian, the mere mention of maple syrup conjures up childhood memories of going to Sugar Shacks in the spring and watching the production of maple syrup – the tapping of the maple trees, the collecting and boiling of the clear sap in vast cauldrons reducing the sap down to a dark sticky syrup, then tasting the sweet creation on fresh pancakes. There is nothing like it in the world. We are practically weaned on it. I cannot resist maple syrup in its many altered forms either – maple sugar, maple fudge and maple butter. Apparently this is an acquired taste since our French friend could barely swallow the fudge; the texture and sweetness overwhelming his taste buds.
I think the expression “sweet tooth” must have originated in Canada.
On Thanksgiving day, my mother would begin the feast preparations; the turkey, the sweet potatoes, the apple crisp; filling our house with a swirl of sweet and savoury aromas that had our mouths watering and us asking when dinner would be ready.
Finally the moment would arrive when we could take our places at the dining room table. Our family would join hands and each share what we were most thankful for – just kidding, that only happens in the movies – I think… Anyway, even though our family did not do that, we were happy to be together and that we had a feast to enjoy.
Thanksgiving is not commercialized like other holidays. It does not revolve around gifts. It is simply about getting together with family and friends and making time for one another.
Thanksgiving reminds us to pause, and think, and appreciate the beautiful things in our lives… but you don’t need a national holiday for that.
So where-ever you are, stop and the smell the roses that are blooming in the garden of your life and appreciate the soil from which they have grown.
Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!
Here are 5 things that I am thankful for, everyday:
My family – who are always there to support and guide me, through the laughter we share and near-daily communications
My friends – the exact same can be said about them as my family, for they are my family, sisters from another mother.
My home – and by this I mean all-encompassing – my house, my town, my country, our place in this world.
My extended family – my ‘son’ from France – he touched our lives and I will think of him always. – our British friend – she has always been special to my parents and has grown special to us all, – and by extension, each of their families.
My health – so far, so good, and I hope to keep up the trend.
These may be the standard things that we are all, or at least I hope many of us, thankful for. And I am thankful for these everyday, not just on the second Monday in October.
What are you most thankful for?
Photo credits: gourds: http://photopin.com/
Autumn colours: Carolin Grandin