What is and how did Thanksgiving come to be? Thanksgiving falls on different days in Canada and the United States according to Dorothy Duncan, Executive Director of the Ontario Historical Society. Because of the seasonal differences between the two countries, our harvest happens earlier in the year, as does our Canadian Thanksgiving.
But that's not the only difference. "Pilgrims," explains Vivian Nelles, professor of Canadian History at York University, are an entirely American phenomenon. "There were no pilgrims involved in our Thanksgiving. None."
In 1576, Martin Frobisher an English explorer set out to find a northern passage After 2 years of trying to mine gold and establish the first English settlement in North America on what would come to be known as Baffin Island. While he failed on all counts, he did celebrate the first formal North American Thanksgiving, in a full 43 years before the pilgrims of Massachusetts at Plymouth Rock
Celebrated on the second Monday in October, by proclamation of Parliament in 1957, Canadian Thanksgiving is "a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed."
The day is celebrated in Canada as a national holiday, but its true roots and European heritage rest in something considerably more pagan. Thanksgiving date back 2,000 years to Celtic priests, the druids, who celebrated a harvest festival. Once the harvest was complete, the Celts prayed for their sun god in the coming battle with the darkness and cold of winter. The harvest season was of such importance it marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.
As time went on, eventually the harvest rituals where combining with the Christian Feast of Saints, "Thanksgiving" as we know it was born As early as 1710 Thanksgiving was celebrated in Nova Scotia on October 10th. Records of Port Royal, Nova Scotia, dating back to 1710, note October 10th. From there the tradition slowly moved across the country.
Thanksgiving was formally declared by the Parliament of Canada in 1879 setting November 6th as a day of Thanksgiving. Canada's Parliament of 1879 formally declared November 6 as a day of Thanksgiving, until the end of World War 1 when ,Thanksgiving and Armistice (Remembrance) Day was celebrated in the same week.
It's current date, the second Monday in October, was regarded by former Ontario Premier E.C. Drury, as a farmer's holiday stolen by cities to provide them a long weekend when the weather was better than winter.