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Thinking of Thanksgiving (Posted On: Monday, September 18, 2006)

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Monday October 12th is Thanksgiving Day. A time we Canadians set aside each year to celebrate the end of a successful harvest season. And while the occasion for giving thanks has always been synonymous with feasting, the reasons and dates for the holiday are quite varied. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving as we know it today has only been a full national holiday in this country since 1957. Parliament proclaimed the second Monday of October as, "A General Day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."

The first recorded Thanksgiving here in North America dates back to colonial times and the year 1578 in what is now Newfoundland. British Northwest Passage explorer Martin Frobisher held a ceremony to offer thanks for surviving the long journey to the New World. By the early 1600s French settlers under the leadership of Samuel de Champlain established the Order of Good Cheer and held huge feasts of thanks.

Most other Thanksgiving events in those early days were associated with military victories and the births of royal children. In 1763 the people of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving to commemorate the end of the Seven Years War. Then, during the American Revolutionary War, the immigrants who became known as United Empire Loyalists brought their customs and practices along when they left New England. Though essentially foreign to the Canadian experience, stories of Pilgrims, the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock became part of our Thanksgiving lore.

Thanksgiving continued to be observed on various dates from late October through early November until after the First World War when the holiday was combined with Armistice Day. In 1931 the two celebrations were separated and November 11th was renamed Remembrance Day.

Although Thanksgiving has always been regarded as an occasion for a special dinner with extended family and friends, the choices of foods has not been unanimous. The tradition of a golden brown turkey with stuffing and gravy was not common among English, French, Spanish and Dutch settlers who tended to favour main dishes like venison, duck and geese. It was the Native Peoples who introduced European settlers to turkey. Four hundred years ago, wild turkeys were tough and resourceful. They could fly and were not easy to catch. Those adept Native hunters taught their Thanksgiving hosts the enjoyment of an exceptional North American delicacy and perhaps helped them preserve that uniquely European tradition of the Christmas goose. Turkey has become such an integral part of our Thanksgiving that many people now refer to the holiday simply as Turkey Day. This year, more than three million whole turkeys will be purchased by Canadians.

One major Thanksgiving custom from the old countries has survived over the centuries into modern times. This primary European tradition involves filling a curved goat's horn with fruits and grains to create what is called a cornucopia or "horn of good and plenty". The bounty of our rich Canadian soils including crops like corn, squash, potatoes, yams, wheat, apples and pumpkin made for ideal ingredients in the Thanksgiving feast.

And so as Southern Georgian Bay prepares for the Thanksgiving weekend with events like the Apple Harvest Festival Oct 9-12th - we at remind you that:

T   is for time together, turkey, talk and tangy weather
H   is for harvest, home, hearth and holiday
A   is for autumn's frosty air and abundance everywhere
N   is for neighbours, nice things and new things to remember
K   is for kitchen, kettles' croon and kin expected very soon
S   is for sizzles, sights and sounds and something special that abounds

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Submitted by: John Hanlon



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