Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving: What’s the Difference?

Photo Courtesy: Pexel by Tima Miroshnichenko

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. But in Canada, Thanksgiving became a national holiday a little later in 1879. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is Columbus Day in America. So while Thanksgiving is still celebrated in Canada, there are still differences; some noticeable and others subtle.

America’s first Thanksgiving was at Plymouth Rock in 1621, when the British came and stole the Native American harvest. In 1578, Canada had their first Thanksgiving when Martin Frobisher (an English explorer) and his crew were looking for a Northwest passage after they faced countless storms in the arctic. They came together in then-Newfoundland, Canada (modern-day Nunavut), where they had a celebration for making it through the journey.

Most Thanksgiving dinners in America include turkey, but in Canada it’s different. Canadians in Newfoundland primarily eat a Jiggs dinner (a boiled meat dish) accompanied with split pea pudding. In Ontario, people also enjoy butter tarts (small tarts with a sticky, sweet filling made from maple syrup) for dessert.

Canada does have a parade and football game, but theirs are less grandiose than ours. Their parade is an Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day parade that features 120 floats and costumed characters, which is shown on CTV.

After Thanksgiving, Americans have Black Friday. It’s known as Boxing Day in Canada, celebrated in December the day after Christmas. But Boxing Day’s roots are from the U.K. during the Victorian era, where wealthy people would give their servants the day off to spend time with family. The servants would also receive gifts from wealthy families such as Christmas leftovers, small gifts and money.

The differences between American and Canadian Thanksgivings are subtle, but they make Canadian Thanksgiving seem like an entirely new holiday.