Spending time with family and enjoying an elaborately cooked meal are staples of the Thanksgiving holiday. A lesser-known fact is that North America celebrates not only one, but two Thanksgiving holidays. While the two holidays have common practices, subtle differences exist between the Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States and the holiday festivities in Canada.
Unlike American Thanksgiving, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of November, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October. While the American holiday is linked to the Pilgrims, the nation’s earliest settlers, the Canadian holiday is linked to a different historical event. In addition to being a celebration of the end of the harvest season and a successful harvest, Canadian Thanksgiving commemorates the return of explorer Martin Forbisher from his expedition in search of a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean. His safe return allowed him to avoid a fate like that of Henry Hudson and John Franklin, who died at sea searching for a similar passage.
Early celebrations of Thanksgiving in Canada were observed in current-day Newfoundland by European settlers. Since the first holiday in 1879, no official observance date was set, and the date of Thanksgiving ranged between October and November throughout the nation. It would take over 75 years for an official date to be established.
In 1957, the Canadian Parliament officially announced the recognition of Thanksgiving and that it would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Although the official observance is on a Monday, the day families gather for Thanksgiving dinner ranges from the Friday before Thanksgiving through Thanksgiving Day.
Like American Thanksgiving, the Canadian holiday is considered secular, but many take time to attend church or pray in appreciation for all of their blessings. Two holidays to remind us to have grateful hearts for all that God has done and will continue to do for us—now there’s something to be thankful for!
As in the United States, turkey is the centerpiece of most Canadian Thanksgiving dinner tables. An assortment of stuffings, gravies, fall vegetables and warm pies or other desserts are also popular foods. Canadians are also fond of the cornucopia tradition started by early European farmers, which consists of filling a curved goat’s horn or horn-shaped basket with fruits and grains, symbolizing a bountiful harvest. Try some of the following popular Canadian Thanksgiving dishes at your family gathering this year!
Tasty Canadian Thanksgiving recipes to try at home.
Wild Rice & Mushroom Casserole
Yield: 4 Servings
3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Combine rice, thyme, basil, broth and 1/2 tsp salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cover, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F / 175° C.
Slice mushrooms or cut smaller mushrooms in half. Melt butter in a separate large stove top casserole dish. Saute the onion until golden. Add mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the rice mixture and any remaining broth to the casserole dish, cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle parsley on top to garnish.
1 10-inch Pie
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
Unbaked Canadian Pastry (see below)
pinch of salt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400° F / 205° C. Combine sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour in a small bowl. Lightly butter or oil the bottom of a pie pan, lay a pie crust on the bottom and sprinkle half the sugar mixture over the bottom pie crust. Fill the crust with blueberries and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over them. Sprinkle the pie with lemon juice and dot with butter. Cover with the top crust and bake for 30 minutes.
1 Double Crust 10-inch Pastry
3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp chilled butter
5 to 7 tbsp cold water
1 egg yolk, beaten
In a medium bowl, sift flour and salt. Cut butter and add to bowl. Use pastry blender or fork to cut butter into small pieces until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Using a fork, slowly stir in water to form dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.
Tear the dough in half and roll out each half into a thin pastry. Use one to fill a 10-inch pie pan and the other to cover your filling. Before baking, brush the top pastry with egg yolk.
Sweet Potato Poutine
This popular fast food dish from Canada is also often eaten during Thanksgiving.
2 large yams or sweet potatoes
2 tbsp canola oil (don’t use olive oil)
1/4 lb cheese curds
2 tbsp butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp port wine
1 tsp demi-glace (or other dark gravy, or use Kitchen
Bouquet® for a vegetarian substitute)
1/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Place oven rack in middle position and preheat over to 450° F.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4” wedges. Toss in canola oil to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and lay on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, make the gravy. Over medium heat, add butter to a small saucepan and then add in shallots and saute until soft. Add the flour and stir to coat. Then whisk in the chicken stock and port.
When the gravy begins to thicken, turn the heat down to medium low and add the demi-glace and thyme, stirring with a spatula to dissolve. Cook until the demi-glace is completely dissolved and the gravy is smooth.
To serve, pile up the potatoes on a plate and crumble the cheese curds on top. Pour the gravy over all of it and garnish with minced parsley.