In this post: When Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and how Canadian Thanksgiving is both similar to and different from American Thanksgiving.


If you live in the U.S. Thanksgiving comes every November on the fourth Thursday of the month. But did you know that up here in Canada, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving a full month (and then some) before that? It’s true. Read on to find out when we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and how it’s both similar to and different from American Thanksgiving.

when is canadian thanksgiving

Why I’m Writing This Post

I’ve been writing this blog for a long time. Eleven years, actually. And in that time a largely consistent amount of the visitors who read it are from the U.S. Some are from Canada and the U.K. as well, but for some reason, Home Made Lovely tends to attract mainly American readers. 

Because of this you may or may not notice that I tend to use American spelling for words like humor instead of humour and flavor instead of flavour.

I also tend to post seasonal content in line with holidays that occur in both countries.

I mean, for the most part, our holidays align – July 1st is Canada Day (the celebration of the founding of our country), while the 4th of July (the celebration of the founding of the U.S.) is only a few days later.

Christmas Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and New Year’s Eve and Day are all on the same actual date for both countries. 

But things get a little hairy when it comes to the fall and Thanksgiving because we do not in fact celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day…or even in the same month for that matter. And that often leads to questions of why I’m “already” decorating for Christmas at the beginning of November. 😉🎄

So let’s explore the similarities and differences between neighbors, shall we?

When is Canadian Thanksgiving?

Canadian Thanksgiving actually used to be held in November. But since the Canadian Parliament declared on January 31, 1957, it’s now celebrated on the second Monday of every October. This is so that it doesn’t interfere with Remembrance Day (our commemoration of the first and second World Wars) which falls on November 11th. 

What is the History of Canadian Thanksgiving? How is it Different than U.S. Thanksgiving?

While American Thanksgiving apparently began with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts celebrating an end to the drought and giving thanks for a bountiful harvest, in 1621, our Thanksgiving has different roots. 

“As the story goes, in 1578, the English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew gave thanks and communion was observed, either on land at Frobisher Bay, in present-day Nunavut, or onboard a ship anchored there. The explorers dined on salt beef, biscuits, and mushy peas and gave thanks through Communion for their safe arrival in then Newfoundland. This is now accepted as the first “Canadian” Thanksgiving, forty-three years before the first “American” Thanksgiving. Forty-eight years later on November 14, 1606, inhabitants of New France under Samuel de Champlain held huge feasts of thanksgiving between local Mi’kmaq and the French.” [source]

We officially celebrate Thanksgiving to celebrate and give thanks to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed. Given that and the fact that we live further north than our American neighbors (thus our harvest is finished sooner because of that), it makes sense that we celebrate earlier in the year.  

So our historical Canadian Thanksgivings were earlier and uniquely different than the Thanksgivings of our American neighbors. But how are the two holidays similar?

Related: Prepare for Thanksgiving: A Step-By-Step Guide To Hosting Thanksgiving

What About Similarities?

Despite the different origins and different dates, there are some things about both Canadian and American Thanksgiving that make them similar. 

The Food

“Foods that are associated with a “traditional” Thanksgiving, such as North American turkey, squash, and pumpkin, were introduced to citizens of Halifax in the 1750s by the United Empire Loyalists, who continued to spread this “traditional” fare to other parts of the country.” [source]

We eat turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy and pumpkin pie.

Family and Friends

We get together with friends and family.

And we share what we are thankful for. 

Minor Differences

There are of course some minor differences even now. 

Football and Black Friday

We probably watch less football up here on Thanksgiving, and we don’t go shopping for massive sales the next day. Black Friday is a thing here too, but since it’s a month later it’s not at all tied together with Thanksgiving. (We have huge Boxing Day sales the day after Christmas though.)

gluten free pumpkin pie cut on a plate with full pie next to it

The Food

I’m told we make our pumpkin pies very differently here. Ours include cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. While apparently American pumpkin pie is made with custard? 

We tend to not eat cornbread, or make cornbread stuffing. Our stuffing is made from regular bread and if we serve rolls they’re not made from corn. 

And we do not add strange things like marshmallows to our sweet potatoes. I honestly cannot even imagine that. 😝

Summary

While our two countries may celebrate Thanksgiving on different days, in different months, the ultimate meaning is the same – to take time to remember to be thankful for what we have in North America

And yes, I may decorate for Christmas earlier than my American friends and family. But I do love that we can enjoy the Christmas season for that much longer. It does take some of the pressure off by not having two massive holidays so close together. 

Did you know that Thanksgiving was different in Canada than in the U.S.? Do you have any other questions about it?

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing! So interesting!

    Like many Americans, I’m jealous that your Thanksgiving is in October. So much more sensible for giving Christmas its own space!

    PS: I didn’t realize that Canadians have Boxing Day. (I lived in the UK when I was little and remember Boxing Day well.)

  2. Shannon!
    I love your Canadian content! And was interested in how you answer about the differences in Canadian and US Thanksgivings. I married a Canadian, so our few Canadian Thanksgivings were mainly to close the family cottage. Since we’ve lived in the states we’ve always celebrated both (my Canadian husband claims that the October celebration is practice for the November one.) Sometimes we invite stray Canadians, but always have the turkey, vegetables, stuffing and pie. Maybe we celebrate with the best of both palates? I would love to have the extra time to decorate and celebrate for Christmas, and my husband loves the four day weekend…it’s all good, and we are grateful for the bounty of our blessings. With Covid-19 last year, we had both celebrations outdoors…October was chilly, but fun. November here in Chicago was just crazy cold!

  3. Hi, Shannon:
    I’m one of your American readers. Regarding pumpkin pie, we use cinnamon, nutmeg, & cloves or pumpkin spice using either fresh or canned pumpkin with sugar, milk & eggs.