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Home » Culture

Thanksgiving: What’s different in Canada?

Submitted by on November 25, 2010 – 1:35 pm6 Comments

In honor of American Thanksgiving Day, Canadian Living mag­a­zine has posted a quiz: How do Canadian Thanksgiving feasts dif­fer from American Thanksgivings?

I’ve found that the meals them­selves are fairly sim­i­lar — turkey, stuff­ing, gravy, sweet pota­toes, cran­berry sauce, and a plen­ti­ful array of pies grace hol­i­day tables on both sides of the bor­der — but the Canadian Living arti­cle points out sev­eral small differences.

To me, the biggest dif­fer­ence is the rel­a­tive impor­tance of the hol­i­day in the two coun­tries: Thanksgiving is a much big­ger deal south of the bor­der. People cer­tainly do have fam­ily din­ners for Thanksgiving here in Canada, but there isn’t the mass travel frenzy you find in the States.

And I’m still adjust­ing to hav­ing our turkey feast in October!

How about you, fel­low American expats? Do you miss American Thanksgiving? Leave a com­ment and let us know how you’re cel­e­brat­ing the US turkey day.

And check out our post from last Thanksgiving: American Thanksgiving: Do you miss it?

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin pie photo by cal­gar­yre­views (flickr)


  • dan says:

    One major dif­fer­ence I’ve noted is that Americans tend to have their Thanksgiving meal on the Thursday evening, whereas Canadians have their meal any­time from Friday to Monday. I also find, in con­tras to what the mag­a­zine you cite sug­gests, that Canadian meals are nowhere near as mono­lithic as their American coun­ter­parts. Canadians tend to include local and eth­nic spe­cial­i­ties. My wife’s fam­ily always includes that deli­cious Prairie treat: the cab­bage roll. I much pre­fer the Canadian cel­e­bra­tion to the American one. While I miss see­ing my fam­ily, I don’t miss the over­shad­ow­ing of Thanksgiving by Christmas. Celebrating in October helps keep the hol­i­day true to its roots as a har­vest festival.

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      Thanks for the com­ments, Dan. That’s true that there doesn’t seem to be a set day or time for the Thanksgiving meal in Canada — just some time dur­ing the Thanksgiving Day week­end. And I’ve never had cab­bage rolls at Thanksgiving, but they sound delicious!

  • kmgm says:

    As an American liv­ing in Canada, this is the one hol­i­day that really sad­dens me that I am not able to cel­e­brate in true U.S. style. It truly is my favorite hol­i­day. It has noth­ing to do with the near­ing of Christmas, or Black Friday shop­ping (which I have never expe­ri­enced) – it was about the being with my fam­ily, see my friends, play­ing and watch­ing foot­ball, the cool New England weather, and of course the food.

    I strug­gled last Thursday as I watched my hus­band go off to work and put my chil­dren on the bus, and spent the day alone. This year is was a lit­tle bit harder because, we had parent/​teacher con­fer­ences that night. No thanks­giv­ing dinner.

    I’m think­ing next year, I will keep the kids home.

  • Zhu says:

    Obviously, I can’t com­pare but I have the feel­ing that Thanksgiving is a much big­ger deal in the U.S.A. Maybe because it is also a syn­onym of Black Friday and OMG-​​Christmas-​​is-​​coming?

    • Carolyn B. Heller says:

      I’m not sure why Thanksgiving is a much big­ger deal in the U.S. than in Canada, but I do think it pre­ceded the cre­ation of the “Black Friday” shop­ping day. American schoolkids spend a lot of time learn­ing about the Pilgrims who first set­tled the U.S. east coast and the leg­end of the first Thanksgiving, so the Thanksgiving din­ner has a cer­tain mythol­ogy sur­round­ing it. It’s a non-​​religious hol­i­day, so its cel­e­bra­tion isn’t lim­ited to par­tic­u­lar reli­gious groups, but that’s true in Canada as well.

      If any­one else has any thoughts about the rel­a­tive impor­tance of Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Canada, please chime in!