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What is Thanksgiving? | The Origins Of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an ancient tradition of celebrating agricultural harvests. The Old Testament already mentions Hebrew harvest festivals (Sukk...

Thanksgiving is an ancient tradition of celebrating agricultural harvests. The Old Testament already mentions Hebrew harvest festivals (Sukkot) to thank and "give thanks" to Yawhe, the Creator of the world. 

This festival is also found in the Hellenic tradition, where it is dedicated to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture (she who gave wheat to mankind).

What is Thanksgiving? | The Origins Of Thanksgiving
What is Thanksgiving? | The Origins Of Thanksgiving 

There is no doubt that in Canada, Thanksgiving, the official holiday and day off, is a holiday that has changed dates many times.

This festival was brought to Quebec (rather to Lower Canada) by Quebecers of British origin, who emigrated from the United States towards the end of the 18th century.

The Origins Of Thanksgiving 

The first day of Thanksgiving was celebrated on January 10, 1799, "to mark the victory over our enemies and for the many and invaluable graces that our kingdoms and provinces have received and continue to receive every day" (the enemies were the French revolutionaries with their ideas of raising Quebec against the British Empire).

The second time, Thanksgiving was celebrated on Thursday, August 12, 1802 simply "for divine graces. After a long 12-year break, however, Thanksgiving was celebrated twice in 1814: on Thursday, April 21, 1814 "for the glorious victories over our enemies" - because of the war against the United States, and on Tuesday, September 13, 1814 "to mark the end of the bloody conflict in Europe and to secure for the King's estates the blessings of peace". 

Six months passed, and we celebrated again: on Thursday, April 6, 1815, we celebrated "the end of the war with the United States and to bring back the benefits of peace".

In the first half of the 19th century, Thanksgiving was still celebrated not on a fixed date but to mark happy events:

  • May 1816: the end of the war between Great Britain and France;
  • in February 1833: the end of the cholera epidemic;
  • November 1, 1834: the end of the quarantine imposed on ships at Grosse-Île on the Magdalen Islands;
  • February 1838: Lower Canada celebrates the end of the Patriots' Rebellion;
  • in June 1856: the restoration of peace with Russia after the Crimean War.

However, the return to the roots of the feast is becoming more and more visible and Thanksgiving begins to be celebrated as a day of thanksgiving to God for an abundant harvest and for peace in the country, with some exceptions : For example, on April 15, 1872, Thanksgiving Day was celebrated to thank the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, for his recovery from a serious illness, and in June 1887, it was the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne (but the same year, in November, a bountiful harvest was also celebrated). 

In the twentieth century, the formula changed to become more generalized: "to give thanks to Almighty God for the blessings enjoyed by the people of Canada".
As early as 1879, Thanksgiving began to be celebrated every year, first on a Thursday in November, then, as early as 1899, on a Thursday in October, then between 1901 and 1904, it was again on a Thursday in November, and then again in October. Each time, the feast is announced a few months in advance and no one knows in advance which Monday or Thursday will be chosen to celebrate.
In 1921, the Armistice Day Act prescribed that Thanksgiving Day would henceforth be celebrated on the Monday of the week of November 11, but in 1931, the Canadian Parliament amended this Act and November 11 was proclaimed Remembrance Day (this is the official name in French for the day marking the armistice).

  • Thanksgiving was finally celebrated on the second Monday in October, but it was in 1957 that Thanksgiving Day was permanently set for the second Monday in October.
  • It should be noted that although Thanksgiving in Canada was borrowed from the Americans (as was the menu, which consisted primarily of turkey), Canadian Thanksgiving should not be confused with American Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving, which is celebrated in the United States a month later than in Canada for geographical reasons (the harvest takes place a month later in the United States).
Let us recall, that on November 11, 1620, the ship, the Mayflower, brought Puritan pilgrims to Virginia, a British colony in America, and after the first harvest the following fall, the settlers who survived the first year (half of them died the first 12) commemorated their survival with a celebration of praise and gratitude to God. 
Then, a first feast was held to give thanks to the Lord for this fertile land that ensured the survival of the group. This is the summary of "Thanksgiving", celebrated every year in the United States on the last Thursday of November, a very popular holiday.
Note that in Quebec (and in Canada) Thanksgiving is not as big as in the United States, nor does it have the same content as in the United States.
Finally, in the United States, about 40 million turkeys are consumed during this period.

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