10 things to know before your first Thanksgiving in Canada

Thanksgiving can be confusing for new Canadians and visitors to Canada. Most countries do not have holidays like this. You may feel like skipping everything. But it is an important holiday in Canada, and if you participate in the celebrations, you will feel much more at home here.

Your first Canadian Thanksgiving Day will be happier if you know a few things:

  1. It is the second Monday in October. So it is on a different date each year. For the first few years I lived in Canada, I didn’t realize that Thanksgiving was coming up until I saw ads for turkeys. Check your calendar and get ready.
  2. It is a (legal) holiday. Schools and most businesses will be closed. Some stores, especially pharmacies and supermarkets, remain open. But the supermarkets probably won’t have any more turkeys. (See # 5.)
  3. It is not just for church members. Although Thanksgiving was started to give thanks to God, it was started by the government, not by any religion. Non-Christians and people with no religion also celebrate Thanksgiving.
  4. The traditional food is roast turkey. Turkey is usually stuffed with a bread and spice filling. (You can get instant fill). Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie are also traditional parts of the meal.
  5. If you are in charge of buying the turkey, you should do so at least one week before Thanksgiving. It can be very difficult to find a turkey, or even pieces of turkey, in stores a few days before Thanksgiving. Also, frozen turkey can take several days to thaw.
  6. Canadian Thanksgiving is different from Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s earlier, of course, but that’s not all. Thanksgiving Day in the United States was first celebrated by a group of settlers called the Pilgrims. They were a religious group that wore special clothes. Americans see a lot of photos of them on Thanksgiving. The first Canadian Thanksgiving was celebrated by Martin Frobisher, an explorer, and his crew. We don’t see many photos of them.
  7. Nobody expects a card or a gift. You may see Thanksgiving cards in stores, but sending them is not a custom, as it is at Christmas.
  8. Thanksgiving is important to children. If you have children in school, they will hear a lot about Thanksgiving. They will do Thanksgiving art projects and find out about celebrations from other families. They will probably be happy to help you prepare for the holidays.
  9. Canadians look forward to spending Thanksgiving with their families. People can visit a relative out of town. Anyone who works Thanksgiving should get extra money. If you’re staying with a Canadian family, they’ll probably want you to have dinner with them, at least.
  10. The most important thing: It is a day to enjoy. Try not to feel pressured. Thanksgiving is not about having a perfect day. It’s about being grateful for the good things in your life. And there are many good things about life in Canada.

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