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Thanksgiving Day in Canada

Thanksgiving Day in Canada has been a holiday on the second Monday of October since 1957. It is a chance for people to give thanks for a good harvest and other fortunes in the past year.

Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals.
Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals.
©iStockphoto.com/Olga Lyubkina

What Do People Do?

Many people have a day off work on the second Monday of October. They often use the three-day Thanksgiving weekend to visit family or friends who live far away, or to receive them in their own homes. Many people also prepare a special meal to eat at some point during the long weekend. Traditionally, this included roast turkey and seasonal produce, such as pumpkin, corn ears and pecan nuts. Now, the meal may consist of other foods, particularly if the family is of non-European descent.

The Thanksgiving weekend is also a popular time to take a short autumn vacation. This may be the last chance in a while for some people to use cottages or holiday homes before winter sets in. Other popular activities include outdoor breaks to admire the spectacular colors of the Canadian autumn, hiking, and fishing. Fans of the teams in the Canadian Football League may spend part of the weekend watching the Thanksgiving Day Classic matches.

Public Life

Thanksgiving Day is a national public holiday in Canada. Many people have the day off work and all schools and post offices are closed. Many stores and other businesses and organizations are also closed. Public transport services may run to a reduced timetable or may not run at all.

Background

The native peoples of the Americas held ceremonies and festivals to celebrate the completion and bounty of the harvest long before European explorers and settlers arrived in what is now Canada. Early European thanksgivings were held to give thanks for some special fortune. An early example is the ceremony the explorer Martin Frobisher held in 1578 after he had survived the long journey in his quest to find a northern passage from Europe to Asia.

Many thanksgivings were held following noteworthy events during the 18th century. Refugees fleeing the civil war in the United States brought the custom of an annual thanksgiving festival to Canada. From 1879, Thanksgiving Day was held every year but the date varied and there was a special theme each year. The theme was the "Blessings of an abundant harvest" for many years. However, Queen Victoria's golden and diamond jubilees and King Edward VII's coronation formed the theme in later years.

From the end of the First World War until 1930, both Armistice Day and Thanksgiving Day were celebrated on the Monday closest to November 11, the anniversary of the official end of hostilities in World War I. In 1931, Armistice Day was renamed Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving Day was moved to a Monday in October. Since 1957, Thanksgiving Day has always been held on the second Monday in October.

Symbols

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means "Horn of Plenty" in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday TypeWhere it is a statutory holiday
MonOct 112010Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 112010Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 102011Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 102011Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 82012Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 82012Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 142013Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 142013Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 132014Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 132014Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 122015Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 122015Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 102016Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 102016Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 92017Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 92017Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 82018Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 82018Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 142019Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 142019Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 122020Thanksgiving DayNational holidayAll except NB, NL, NS, PE
MonOct 122020Thanksgiving DayObservanceNB, NL, NS, PE

Quick Facts

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday to give thanks for the blessings in one's life, particularly the harvest. It is a day off work for many Canadians.

Thanksgiving Day 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016 (All except New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island)
Monday, October 10, 2016 (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island)

Thanksgiving Day 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017 (All except New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island)
Monday, October 9, 2017 (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island)

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Name in other languages

NameLanguage
Thanksgiving DayEnglish
le Jour d'Action de grâceFrench
Thanksgiving DayGerman

List of dates for other years

Other holidays in October 2016 in Canada

United Nation Holiday on October 10, 2016

Fun Holiday on October 10, 2016

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