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Saigon Kids in Canada: Happy Thanksgiving!

For Saigon Kids living in Canada today is Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day, or Turkey Day (Canadian French: Action de grâce). An annual one-day holiday to give thanks for the things one has at the close of the harvest season. Some people thank God for this bounty. The holiday is celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Traditional celebration

Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in all jurisdictions, with the exception of the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. Where a company is regulated by the federal government (such as those in the Telecommunications and Banking sectors), it is recognized regardless of status provincially.

As a liturgical festival, Thanksgiving corresponds to the English and continental European Harvest festival, with churches decorated with cornucopias, pumpkins, corn, wheat sheaves, and other harvest bounty, English and European harvest hymns sung on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and scriptural selections drawn from biblical stories relating to the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

While the actual Thanksgiving holiday is on a Monday, Canadians might eat their Thanksgiving meal on any day of the three day weekend. Thanksgiving is often celebrated with family, it is also often a time for weekend getaways for couples to observe the autumn leaves, spend one last weekend at the cottage, or participate in various outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and hunting.

Much like its American counterpart, Canada’s top professional football league, the Canadian Football League, holds a nationally televised doubleheader known as the “Thanksgiving Day Classic.” It is one of two weeks in which the league plays on Monday afternoons, the other being the Labour Day Classic. Unlike the Labour Day games, the teams that play on the Thanksgiving Day Classic rotate each year.

History of Thanksgiving in Canada

The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. The feast was one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in North America, although celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops had been a long-standing tradition throughout North America by various First Nations and Native American groups. First Nations and Native Americans throughout the Americas, including the Pueblo, Cherokee, Cree and many others organized harvest festivals, ceremonial dances, and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America. Frobisher was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him — Frobisher Bay.

At the same time, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, also held huge feasts of thanks. They even formed ‘The Order of Good Cheer’ and gladly shared their food with their First Nations neighbours.

After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763 handing over New France to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year. After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada. The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year but the date was proclaimed annually and changed year to year. The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed year to year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In the early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary.

After World War I, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the Monday of the week in which November 11 occurred. Ten years later, in 1931, the two days became separate holidays, and Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day.

On January 31, 1957, the Canadian Parliament proclaimed:

“A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed … to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.”

To all Saigon Kids in Canada … THANK YOU for being a Saigon Kid and blessing our lives in so many ways. You are in our thoughts and prayers today as we give thanks for having the pleasure of receiving all the blessings you have given us, by touching our lives in so many special ways. We love you!

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