Just South of Minden last week returning from our vacation, on the winding highway that skirts Gull Lake, a wild turkey suddenly scurried across the road and dashed into the under brush, missing the wheels of my car by inches.
"We almost had a free turkey for Thanksgiving," I told Linda.
Unlike the United States where one defining event established the tradition, in Canada Thanksgiving Day arose out of a combination of traditions.
In Newfoundland in 1578, the English navigator Martin Frobisher held a ceremony to give thanks for surviving the long journey. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in Northern Canada named after him, Frobisher Bay.
In 1621, in what is now the United States of America, the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest in the New World. By the 1750's settlers moving to Canada from America had taken this celebration to Nova Scotia.
At the same time, French settlers arriving in Canada with the explorer Samuel de Champlain held thanksgiving feasts and shared their food with their Indian neighbours. After the seven years war ended in 1763 the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving.
At the time of the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists, remaining loyal to the Government in England, moved to Canada and spread the Thanksgiving celebration to other parts of the country. Other English, and oher European, settlers were also used to having a harvest celebration in their churches and villages every Autumn.
In 1879 the Canadian Parliament declared the 6th November as a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday. Over the years the date has changed with the third Monday in October being the most popular time. Finally on the 31st January 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed that....
'A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.....to be observed on the second Monday in October.'
Our extended family is not waiting until Monday to celebrate. We long ago out grew the capacity of any of our homes to accommodate our numbers and need to rent a facility to hold our celebration. We've taken train rides together on old coal burning trains, have picnicked in parks in wild snow storms, have sailed the Toronto harbour of Lake Ontario in a windjammer; but this year we're meeting in a hall in Ajax on the shores of the lake.
My oldest daughter Kathy has made all the arrangements, including cooking the store brought turkey. We're bringing the pies, apple and pumpkin. Despite my earlier close encounter with the wild turkey, this will be my first thanksgiving not eating meat.
If I can resist temptation.
To me it's been one heck of a year, but it has also brought with it much to be thankful for.
To all my Canadian Friends, let me wish you and your families the Happiest Thanksgiving!
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